WASHINGTON, June 2, 2016 — How on earth do you lose a 4-year-old at the zoo? I never took my kids to the zoo without having them on leashes. A lot of moms looked at me like I was some sort of monster, but I never had to scream “get down from there!” like a demented banshee.
I just yanked on the leash.
My son sometimes started to squirm. “Slip that collar and the gorillas can have you,” I snarled. He settled down. I’m a great dad; no gorillas will die because of me.
I’m not saying the zoo shouldn’t be fun. Once I stuffed my son’s pockets full of kibble. You know, the stuff you get from a machine at the petting zoo to throw at the sheep and goats. After I stuffed it in his pockets, I threw him at the sheep and goats.
They darn near tore his pants off trying to get to the kibble. His sister and I laughed till it hurt. It was one of the best daddy-daughter bonding moments we ever had.
The problem with parents these days is they try too hard. They’ve forgotten the joys of not trying at all. There are too many mommy-blogs out there, too many cute ideas and screwball theories about raising kids.
- Cut slices of your home-made whole-grain sandwich bread with cookie cutters to make your kids the cutest sandwiches in school.
- On St. Patrick’s Day, put spinach in their pancakes to make them green. No, not food color, you lazy, no-good excuse for a parent!
- When you head the kids off to the bath, do it to Handel’s “Water Music”; when they catch fireflies, be sure it’s to the “Music for the Royal Fireworks.”
- Their toys should be handcrafted from wood in Vermont, and you should make them quilts from their baby clothes.
- If you let your child eat peanut products, gluten or Hostess Ding Dongs, you’re a monster.
- When you go anywhere, take a big, multi-pocket bag containing kale chips and chia seeds, spring water, a first-aid kit, changes of clothes and educational games.
- If you go to the zoo, babywear infants younger than 120 months (that helps prevent separation anxiety) if you’re a man; babywear and breast-feed them the whole time if you’re a woman. That way they won’t run off to the gorillas.
Uh-huh. I say, once you’ve dried them off from the womb, plop them in front of a TV, toss them a TV remote and a bag of Cheetos, and get on with your life. Stretch out on the sofa with a bag of pork rinds, a case of beer and your own remote.
When the kids hit puberty, their brains will drain out their ears and you’ll need an exorcist, so enjoy yourself while you can.
Kids are resilient. Raise them right, raise them wrong, and you’ll get whining ingrates either way. So make it as easy on yourself as you can. If God wanted kids to be getting intellectual stimulation and exercise, He’d never have invented TV or PlayStation.
And if He wanted kids to be safe, they’d be born without legs.
So, summer is here and the kids are at home. What can you do with them and stay sane?
1. Sunny day activities: Sanctimommies think summer is the best time to take your kids swimming, to teach them croquet and to take them rafting through the Grand Canyon.
That’s nuts. It’s hot out there. Summer was made for Netflix. “Outdoors” is always the wrong answer for summer fun, unless it involves locking the kids outdoors while you’re in.
But some busy-bodies think locking the kids outside is child abuse (I’m no monster; they’ve got a water spigot). So the right answer always includes Cheetos, the TV remote and Netflix. And Ding Dongs.
2. Travel: Don’t. Not unless you’ve got Netflix and Cheetos in the back seat of your van. And really, even then, where are you going to go? I took my kids to the Grand Canyon. “There’s nothing here but rocks.” I took them to Yellowstone. “If this is a park, where are the rides?” I took them to Iceland. “There’s nothing here but rocks. And why do all the restaurants serve fish? I hate fish.” I took them to Disneyland.
Okay, Disneyland was a success. And it was easy. The Disney folks know how to make a vacation painless for the parents. When they learn to make it painless on my wallet, we’ll talk.
If there aren’t waterslides, rollercoasters or Disney princesses involved, kids really don’t want to go. If they want a waterslide, stay home and duct-tape the hose to the top of the slide and let ‘em at it. Total cost? Duct tape.
3. Cultural and educational activities: Are you joking? As my daughter reminded me when I suggested a museum, “Daddy, it’s a vacation. A vay-cay-shun. That means nothing we’d do at school. Nuh-thing.”
Did you know that you can watch Disney’s “Pocahontas” on Netflix? Or “Hercules”? There you go: history and culture without leaving the house.
4. Other people’s kids: When my kids get invited somewhere else for a sleepover, I get all tingly with joy. There’s nothing more selflessly kind that one set of parents can do for another than invite your kids over for a sleepover.
But there’s a problem: most of us aren’t selflessly kind, and we’ll have to reciprocate. Those kids will want to stay the night at your house. You don’t want that.
How do you get out of it while making sure your kids are still included on the sleepover circuit? “You’ll have to let me show you my new Glock.” “The kids might like to drive my ATV.” “We’re trying that new white-bread and peanut butter diet.”
Drop any of those casually into a conversation and the sanctimommies won’t let their kids within a hundred yards of your house.
Summer vacation should be fun for everyone. Give your kids what they want—mindless entertainment and empty calories—and they’ll give you what you want—peace and quiet. Keep it simple, keep it easy, and it’s a win all around.