Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If Monkeys Could Talk

*The following story is fiction. Mostly fiction...

My kid has this stuffed monkey. He sleeps with it every night. He found him at Walmart, my wife was shopping with him one day and took a wrong turn down the toy aisle. That’s a bad move, the toy aisle. Rookie mistake.

Our son threw a whopper of a fit over this monkey and Mom broke down. I didn’t see much special about him—the monkey, my kid is plenty special—he has a pull tail that plays a nursey rhyme I recognize but can’t name.

My son and this monkey. He takes it everywhere. Bathroom. Daycare. To the store. This monkey travels. The other night it had snowed, and the next day the sun warmed things up so that the streets shined black with salt and chemicals. My son was hopping over a curb when, splat, he dropped he monkey face down in a tar black puddle of grime. The kid was devastated. Crying about Patrick the monkey as I cleaned him up some with a Clorox wipe and fix him. But the wipes only managed to smear his face and belly and the more I wiped the more he smeared until he looked like a coal miner with a beard.

That was the worst. My wife was working late and it was just me and the kid and Patrick—my kid named the monkey Patrick—and I got this situation under control and stepped out into the living room. I was whipped from the trauma of parenting, and I was about to crack a well-deserved beer and turn on the game when I felt a draft. 

That’s when I saw it.

Patrick’s tail. The window as shut but I knew that tail anywhere. I leaped up and snatched the monkey, knowing I’d just seen him in bed before lights out.

He was cold in my hand. I looked to the hallway, then back to the monkey. Something swatted my hand away. “What the hell you think you’re doing?”

I’m pretty sure I screamed. Okay so I screamed, but Patrick was talking, with an Irish accent no less.
“Hey,” he whistled. “You don’t want to get involved. Let me go, okay?”

I rubbed my eyes and he was still there. “Let you go, where?”

“Anywhere,” he said, wiping at his cheek. Maybe it was remnants of today’s mishap, but he was trembling, terrified. This monkey had been to hell and back. “This gig, it’s too much. I need to bail.”


“You gonna sit here and repeat everything I say?”

“No, I just…”

“I can’t do it. Look at me. I used to have fur, this coat with a sheen to it. I played a lullaby and my smile drove the girls crazy. I was the only male monkey on the shelf. Then that lunatic son of yours comes along.” 

“He’s hardly a luna—”

“Look at me!”

I did. I saw his matted fur and deranged eyes. His tail hanging to the floor like an old rope. Today’s chemical bath hadn’t done him any favors, and that smile he spoke of was torn clean off at the edges.

“You see now?”

“Well,” I shrugged.

“Pull my tail.”

The sounds warbled out of a box that was visible through his threadbare skin and lost stuffing. The song was drunk, but the monkey thirsty.

“Now go pour that drink.”

I started to get up. “Beer?”


We set up at the table. Patrick drank bourbon like a champ. He wiped his face and began the story of how he was assembled in Mexico by a woman with strong hands and few teeth. How he came across the border on a box truck with a bobble doll named Sheila. “Sheila,” he said, his faded eyes mustering a glow. “She was something, kid. Really something.”


“Born and raised, Chico,” he said, knocking back another shot.

“But the name, the accent, the,,,"

“Drinking? Is that what you want to say? Try soaking up a few pounds of drool, get dropped in the toilet, see what it does for your sobriety, okay?”

“Okay, Patrick.”

“Okay, he mimicked. “And the dogs. Jesus, that pooch took my ear off.”

“We sewed it back on, Patrick.”

He set out his glass. I filled it to the top.


We talked it out. Patrick and I are all right these days. I look out for the guy. Bought a cute female monkey for my son. We look our for each other. Patrick tells me all the silly things my son said or did. And every now and then when the house is quiet we share a drink at the table.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Well, we’re off. Up and rolling on two wheels.

My little boy is riding a bike. And it’s somewhat of a shock, because I thought it would be summer before we were ready to take the training wheels off. But we have bigger kids in the neighborhood, and so our little man is inspired.
Good Luck! 

A few weeks back, we took him to a nice, soft rubber track at the nearby middle school. The idea here was to let him get the feel of being up on two wheels, see what it was all about. He made it maybe two times around, before my hand cramped up from being vice-gripped the backseat for support. At one point I managed to let go for roughly a nanosecond until he began to wobble in the turbulence.

It wasn’t long before he was done with it and wanted those training wheels back on. But it was about what I expected. 

Fast-forward to Friday, when I picked him up early from daycare. We had nothing but time. The sun was out and so we took the old trainers off again. It was completely a spur of the moment thing, because he’d been chasing the bigger kids up and down the street, watching them on their big mountain bikes, asking me about gears and kickstands and reflectors and handbrakes. The kid is thorough, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, he was up for giving it another try, so this time we headed down to the end of the street, to a small access road that was once gravel is now overgrown with grass. Or padding, as I saw it.

Actually, it was our neighbor's idea, he was out and saw us coming (my wife insisted on buying our son a bright yellow "bee" helmet complete with wings and eyes so we're sort of hard to miss) and suggested giving it a go down the hill. Again, I wasn’t expecting much, maybe a few feet of wobbling before crashing. But the little guy blew my mind. 

He got his legs going and peddling and made it ten, then twenty feet before veering into the higher grass where the bike teetered over like a feather on a pillow. 

This...was genius.

We did it again, then again and again and again, until the whole neighborhood was cheering him on. He was chugging along, ten, then twenty, then fifty yards as got the hang of it, even to the point where I was comfortable enough to let him go and stand back, basking in parental pride as he peddled along and stopped (sometimes more gracefully than others) to dismount without falling at all. 

It was pretty amazing. Really. Maybe one of the biggest moments as a parent. I can’t explain it, and no, I'm not going to be that dad, pushing him and all. But he was ready to ride, and it was infectious watching him get the hang of it. Yeah, I got into it.  

Now we've been back a few times, and yesterday he even rode the whole way home on the street. Sure, we've had a few spills and crashes. He gets frustrated at times. But he’s only four, and it’s a great start. 

Part of me feels useful too, because hey, I'm a product of the eighties, and this stuff is right up my alley. I've dusted off my bike and we cruise down the street. Me and the neighborhood kids have formed a biker gang. We do wheelies and call out to each other when a car's coming. I give my kid pointers, teach him to keep his eyes on what’s ahead, both hands on the wheel, his feet on the pedals. You know, do as I say, not as I do.

Let the good times roll. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Laces Out

Somewhere along the way, my four-year-old son developed a shoe fetish.

It started with laces. See, all the older kids down the street have shoes with laces, so well, Simon wanted laces. Never mind that he can’t tie them up (he has me for that), or that they’re a size too big and every time he starts to run I picture him smacking his face on the street, all the cool kids are doing it so he needed to get on board.

We have a pair of hand-me-downs “lace shoes” from his cousin, and well, my kid made a compelling argument as to why he should have them. So for a week he’s worn these boats around the house, stopping every six to eight steps so that I can alternately tie his shoes.

Then he wanted his old shoes, back, the sandal types from last summer. So he crammed his foot into those. After that he wore his water shoes to school. Then his Ninja Turtle shoes because they light up. My kid's like the Kanye of shoes, scoping out anyone who walks by, checking out their gear, seeing what kind of kicks they’re rocking. This from a kid who demanded to be barefoot his first three years.  

But it’s not about the shoes. It’s that he wants to grow up. And it’s killing me.

He watches these older kids, cruising up the street, on their bikes, right outside of the house. Then he runs in and puts his little bumblebee helmet on and races off on his training wheels to catch them. I chase after him, wishing the kids would stop and talk to him. But he’s unperturbed. He’s determined. They ignore him and he just pedals harder.

You’ve got to admire that kind of persistence. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Healthy Kids and Conversations

We’ve hit that stage where you never quite know what our kid is going to say or how he's going to say it. One minute he's talking about the pros and cons of purchasing a Blu Ray player and the next minute he's boggled at how in the wold a bunny can hide Easter eggs. 

Funnier still is watching his adult-like gestures while having the most kid conversations.

Speaking of conversations, yesterday, we were riding our bikes in the basement—I’m clocking some miles these days, one circle at a time in our unfinished 1,500-square foot basement—when he motioned for me to pull over.

I did as I was told and he waved me closer. “Come here, Daddy. Let’s have a conversation about our bikes.”

He sat back, not unlike a traffic cop, looking over my bike. “You’re bike has two wheels, mine has four,” he said, looking down to his training wheels. “That means my bike is faster.”

Or the other night when he bonked his head on his bed frame and popped right up, as though he knew we were worried about him.  “I’m okay,” he announced. “I have a special head.”

He does have a special head. He does keep me cracking up. And not only is he funny as heck, he’s strong willed, which is a nice way of calling him stubborn as a mule. 

Last weekend we joined some friends for the Healthy Kids Running Series, which is basically a footrace for kids. Both my wife and I figured he’d be better suited for this kind of thing next year, but once he heard “race” he was all over it.

Our kid is still a napper. It’s phasing out, but without an hour or so of shuteye to knock the edge off, you'll find yourself dealing with Damien from The Omen. We didn’t. At 2:30, thumb in mouth, we headed over to the park. 

The yawns were deep, engulfing things by the time we eased into the parking lot and made our way to the registration. We were early, and they were still lining the field with cones. By then, little Usain Bolt’s eye lids were getting heavier by the breath. Sure enough, by race time, he looked like this:

My mother-in-law thought he might see the other kids lining up and follow. But again, back to that mule thing. But he rallied, and just barely. My wife got him up to the starting line, looking a little Weekend At Bernie's-ish and swaying some by that point. And I almost pulled the plug. 

I felt like I was pushing him. When hell, if he wanted to plop back down and have another look at the sky, that was just fine by me. But he didn't. The whistle sounded and off they went. All but one. 

At some point he got the memo. And I've never felt so bad and been so proud as he finally got it in gear and finished dead last, but first in my heart. He finished. And I couldn’t have cared less where he placed. And we left, and went home and he picked up his sword and fought some trees. It was great. 

Maybe it’s because I was never involved in sports until I was nine or ten and it was my idea, but I don’t feel the need to make him do organized activities. He’s four after all, which to me means he should be doing this:

Healthy Kids is great. And I think he'll enjoy it more in a few years, but if he doesn't, that’s great too. Every one is different. And enjoys different things. 

My kid has a special head after all. He enjoys having “conversations”