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Hair Today, Mullet Tomorrow

The Before:

The After:

When I became a father, one of the battles I swore to myself I’d never wage was over hair.

A friend of mine's son made hideous teenage hair choices, but his mother once said to me, “My mother made such a big deal of my hair I swore I’d never do the same to my kids.”

I adopted that philosophy. My mom and I went round and round about my hair so very many times. She wanted me to remain the all-American Tom Sawyer with the neatest side part and feathery 1980’s ‘do. But when I hit junior high and discovered blow-dryers and MTV, I follicly rebelled. I wanted Johnny-Depp-21-Jumpstreet hair. That meant much fuller and longer than Mom’s Eisenhower-June-Cleaver standards tolerated. So we fought for years about my hair.

Yesterday, my 5yo had a bout with a pair of scissors and gave himself a haircut.

I’m still apoplectic about it.

Yes, I know self-inflicted hair disasters are a rite of passage for all children. As my partner said, “the only thing missing in this scenario is that tomorrow isn’t school picture day.”

But two things have sent me into a spiral of irrationality:

  1. My kid had gorgeous hair. He hadn’t gotten it cut since December and it had grown symmetrically and beautifully.
  2. I’m afraid it looks exactly the way he wants, but because it looks objectively hideous, I don’t know whether to traumatize him with a full “boy” cut, or let him continue his summer with the ugliest “girl-cut-with-bangs” imaginable. I mean – none of our summertime pictures will be useful for Christmas letters, this year. NONE.

Some background:

I know this situation is all about me. And as I frequently disclaim – this blog entry is my confessional so I can look back on my words, see what an asshole I’m being, and let it go. Hopefully my son isn’t reading these words and hating me, but rather just laughing at my own assholishness. Buddy: I love you, no matter any choice you make (short of killing someone or becoming a Republican). You’re perfect.


No haircut since December. Why? Because of his penchant for all things princess, I once asked him, “Are you a girl, do you want to be a girl, or are you a boy who just likes to wear dresses?”

I admit I approached the question in a fit of frustration with his dress choice du jour, but when I got the words out, I just wanted to communicate honestly. And whatever answer was gonna be fine.

After some thought, he responded, “I want to be a girl.”

“Okay. That’s fine. Can I ask why?”

“Because they get to have long hair.”

“Oh. Well, boys can have long hair, too. Do you want to grow your hair long?”


So we didn’t cut his hair for seven months.

Until yesterday.

Over the past few months, he’d mentioned he wanted bangs. I was like – ah, hell no. No kid of mine is gonna have some pageboy weirdo framing that beautiful face. Nope. We goin’ for the full California swoop.

There I go – making hair decisions for my son.

Except, PEOPLE! – let’s be honest. He was on his way to exceptional hair. He didn’t need some medieval pageboy helmet surrounding his entire face…with bangs.

And then, yesterday, during what I should have realized was a particularly long amount of quiet time, he approaches me, nonchalantly, to ask for some goldfish.

I responded, “Uh, buddy, I think we’re gonna have dinnersoondearlordwhathaveyoudonewhathaveyoudonewhathaveyoudone?”

“He did it, too,” my son said, pointing to his little brother (who’s hair looked unscathed).

And there we have it.

My son now looks like a crop-banged skid row urchin crawling home from a CBGB party that went all kinds of wrong at around 3:47 AM.

And I don’t know whether or not to change it, because I think it’s exactly what he wanted – long hair in the back, bangs in the front.

The most childish thought I have, right now? – his long hair was helping him look less…um…questionable when I let him wear dresses in public. Now, if I have the barber chop it all off to start back at ground zero, I’m with my son who’s obviously a boy with short hair, but in a dress.

I know, I know, I know. I’m a monster. I’m saying it out loud, now, not so you’ll troll me, but so that I know I need to get over myself. Fear not. But these are my thoughts.

I’m making peace with the wonderful, colorful, eye-opening, beautiful journey my son traverses every day. I love him for all his femininity. And sometimes it’s hard. But it’s really just hard for me.

He’s fine with who he is and what he loves.

So I’m letting the hair go.

Except I can’t. Seriously, he looks like he got in a fight with a drunk chipmunk Edward Scissorhands.

I’ll let you know, later, where we settle. For now – I’m starting to laugh about this situation sooner than I thought possible.

Would love to hear your personal stories of when you cut your hair, yourself, cuz I know: it’s a rite of passage.

I cut mine when I was in 7th grade. Yep. Not when I was 5, but when I was 13. I wore a hat for weeks. But Mom wouldn’t let me get a “bowl cut” circa 1989. So….I did exactly as my 5yo son.



Proud to be “Worst Daddy in the World”

“You’re the worst daddy in the world,” was stated, yesterday. Not the first time I’ve heard it. Thankfully, I haven’t heard it much (yet).

But as a friend reminded me, it probably means I’m doing my job.

Why’d I receive such 5yo vitriol?

Because on a rainy Saturday afternoon, after offering my sons to veg out in front of the TV, I made the stipulation they had to clean their room, first.

Now, listen: I’m no neat-freak. I don’t like dirtiness, but I don’t mind messiness. However, I won’t abide a bedroom that’s trashed with dress-up clothes, princess castles, Legos and monster trucks. I’m asking for the very lest, kiddo: shove your shit into the big toy baskets and clear the floor.

I’m not asking for hospital-tucked sheets, folded underwear drawers or toothbrush-scrubbed window tracks. Nope. Just clear the floor 80% and you earned your special TV time (no more than ½ an hour. Let’s not get crazy, people.)

So, on this Father’s Day 2017, I pledge to my son to earn top-billing as “worst-daddy-in-the-world” if it’s because of this:

  1. You will clean the messes you make. Don’t worry: I’ll help you. And I don’t expect you to render the house neater than when you found it, but you will do your part in replacing sofa cushions after asking to make a fort, throwing every article in your dress-up box to opposite ends of your room, leaving markers all over the main hallway, or abandoning you-name-it in the family room.
  2. You will eat your vegetables and you will take three bites of new foods before refusing to finish it – one to taste, one to experience, one to decide. Mealtime games are not for me. But also, I won’t fight a battle. No trying? No dessert. No veggies? No dessert. No drama. You choose your choice. You don’t have to eat. But there’s nothing else to eat, if you go on a hunger strike. And no matter how much your neighbor friend eats a diet of chicken nuggets, potato chips and macaroni for every dinner, I promise – your plate will never, ever look like that.
  3. You will read your assigned “beginning reader” books to me before I read your favorite stories to you…because you have to earn stories, now, big boy. And because it’s your job – to learn to read. So you do your work, and I’ll reward you.
  4. You will be dressed, fed, teeth-brushed and ready to walk out the door to school before you start playing with toys. You can even have a small hit of screen time if you’re good to go. But hell NO can you play or whine for screen time before you’re ready to walk out the door.

It’s all about earning your privileges…dessert, screen time, playtime, etc.

Unluckily for you, I’ve proven I’m even more stubborn than you for the past 5 years, and that’s not gonna change.

My job is not to be your friend. My job is to raise you to be a kind, strong, wise human being who makes the world a better place.

If that makes me the “worst daddy in the world”, I’ll wear the honor proudly.

Happy “Worst-Daddy-in-the-World” Day to me.

I love you, too, son.

Happy Father’s Day, Mom.

On Father’s Day, I’m reminded I’m the mom.

Not in the ignorant person asking, “Yeah, but which one of you is the mom?” way. That has a connotation of “which one of you is the girl?” I resent that. We aren’t that superficially categorized. But I guess the semantics need simplification. I’m confusing myself.

Lemme explain.

My partner is the one who knows how to “just be” with our kids. He’s the one unperturbed with sitting on the bedroom floor, letting them toddle about, babble, sing, and play. He’s agenda-less. He lets the kids come to him and welcomes them with open arms, hugs, tickles and tolerates their make-believe.

I’m the agenda-follower, vegetable-force-feeder, schedule-keeper, nighttime routine follower, iPad shunner, project-manipulator, muddy puddle-avoider, quiz-annoyer, list-checker, freaker-outer, frustration-succumber, unnecessary battle-seeker-outer, tear-causer.

But not him.

One of our favorite bedtime stories (Little Boycheck it out. It’s perfection), ends with the statement, “Little Boy, you remind me how so much depends on days made of now.”

And my partner lives that. He’s able to be in the “now”, let our boys come to him, tickle for hours (well…twenty minutes), and let them derail my perfectly-laid plans.

I’m on a schedule: bath, books, bed. (In my defense, I’ve had the kids all day and I’m done screwing around.)

But he screws all that up with his giggle fests interrupting my reading time.

And it is good.

As a gay dad (who’s unexpectedly the stay-at-home parent), I resent the societal assumption that dads are the ones who deserve slack because we’re all thumbs in changing diapers or managing a household or being excellent primary care-givers. It angers me if someone smirks at me with my toddler tornado in a coffee shop and says, “Mommy’s day off?”

(Although I’ve been known to smile when anyone on the street ooh’s and ahh’s at “that cute dad who’s giving Mommy a break” when I’m managing two toddlers perilously zooming down the sidewalk on scooters. Call me a hypocrite.)

But I know we all rise to the occasion of effective parenting, regardless our gender or societal/familial roles. It’s ridiculous to say men can’t change diapers or make baby food or be the rule enforcer…no more than someone could tell my mom she couldn’t take me camping or play baseball with me. (She did all that…probably because after my father died when I was eight, she did her utmost to take on qualities of both “mom” and “dad”.)

What if parental labels were genderless and more task-based? The default primary care-giver is mom, the one who gets to “swoop-in-and-tickle-and-be-fun-and-ruin-all-the-rhythm” is dad?

My context is doing everything. So I’m the afore-listed task-master whose label would “normally” be mom. I’m a dad who’s really good at being a mom.

And my partner is really good at being dad. (Sometimes he jokes he’s the gay uncle who gets to have even more fun and less responsibility. I find this not even remotely funny.)

But he is particularly good at being in the Little Boy moments made of now.

And that is so very important.

Because I’m intense.

Not long ago, my partner had a very uncharacteristic free day. I took one of our sons to a doctor appointment and, after the appointment, I texted an update. He responded, “Great. Take your time coming home.”

Wait, what? I could take the afternoon to have a cookie with only one child? Meander down New York sidewalks with only one child?

Have a coffee and a cake pop with only one child?

We didn’t hurry. I didn’t pull the one kid, praying there’d be no melt-downs or peed-pants or tardiness to the next wherever-we-needed-to-be.

We were in the “now”, for once.

Thanks, partner. I needed that.

Happy Father’s Day to us.

I’m not Racist, but…

A few months ago, after my four thousandth reading of Pinkalicious, I closed the book, and thought, “Man. If I were an African-American father I would be disgusted by our book selection.”

Pinkalicious. Vanilla Icing Icing Baby.

Fancy Nancy. Frilly whitey.

Biscuit Goes to the Farm (or does whatever). Yellow lab, white identity.

Curious George. A monkey living in a white world. Ergo: white monkey.

Hungry Little Caterpillar – a little white boy with an eating disorder.

Clifford. Big red dog, little white girl.

Where the Wild Things Are. White monsters.

Dr. Seuss One fish, two fish, white kid, white kid.

Goodnight Moon. Little white bunny and his old white granny whispering “hush”

Harry Potter Even the “dark arts” wizards are white. (Thank goodness. Because awkward.)

Lego’s are all white people, My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake couldn’t possibly be whiter. Sofia the First has a white character…once every 8 episodes when they’re running out of story lines for princess entitlement. And let’s not even touch the main Disney princesses (pre-Tiana, I suppose).

(Alright, alright – you get Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. Congratulations. One color-blind book with a protagonist of color.)

Etc. etc. etc. whitecetera.

Not one week after my racial realization, I learned of a conversation going on at my son’s school’s PTA regarding diversity. A super-academic committee discussed diversity with NYU sociology professors and posed the question: when did you last read a book with a protagonist of color when that protagonist wasn’t 1) overcoming racial adversity, 2) a slave story.

When did you read a book about a kid who’s going about everyday activities and just happens to be non-WASP?

(Not that I need to pat myself on the back, but…I had this realization before hearing of the PTA discussion. Just saying. I’m color blind. Was. Wait. That wasn’t a good thing.)

So, now our PTA is tasking the school with constructive steps toward literary diversity…expanding our library with books where diversity is a non-issue.

When certain (white) Americans dispute that “the system” is set up against children of color, I invite anyone to look through the vast majority of children’s books, including mine.
Imagine being a little black boy or black girl in America and be surrounded by the super popular books (see above) and never seeing themselves reflected. Ever.

You think that wouldn’t set you up for inferiority complexes or a sense of never being able to relate to popular culture?

I’m not sure what the solution is. Could publishing companies publish alternative illustrated books? White not an African American-centric Cat in the Hat? An Asian Pinkalicious? A gender non-conforming Fancy Nancy(Nathan?)

I’m sure this doesn’t make financial sense for the literary corporations just selling books.

But perhaps it would make financial sense?

OMG, are they already doing this and I live so deep in my white bubble that I’m not even aware?

Welp. There’s my confession du jour. Let the twitter trolling commence. (I won’t even see it. I barely know how to tweet.)



Is Love for Sparkles Genetic?

Where does our draw to sparkly things come from?
OMG. I can’t let that sentence stand…but “from whence does our draw to sparkles originate?” sounds ridiculous.
Anyway. Why do we like sparkles? Is there prehistoric programming within us to collect sparkly things because sparkly things can be used as…currency? Or status- like the crab in Moana?
Perhaps is purely aesthetics?…Zeus and Gaia and their ilk thought, “I should give these pathetic humans something nice to look at since life is so nasty, brutish and short. I know! I’ll endow  ‘em with taste!”
Back in the day, did Neanderthals attracted to rainbows steer their tribes from danger? Or did they lead them straight into certain death on quixotic rainbow hunts…but have a fabulous road trip on their way to starvation?
Did little girl cro-magnons (and boy cro-magnons, Gavin…don’t forget the topic of which you’re writing) decorate their animal pelts with daisies in the springtime?
There was definitely an appreciation for art…just look at the Lascaux paintings in France. But were they also indulging an appreciation for “beauty” in their expression? Were those painters also the chefs/designers/dancers of their tribes?
Did aesthetic fabulosity go hand-in-hand: cave drawings, daisy accessorizing and shiny/sparkly things? Or are we drawn to sparkly sequins because Mother Culture tells us to consume them? Did the invention of the disco ball tap into our base caveman attractions or was it just commercialism?
I’m a Libra, and almost all astrology says I have an “appreciation for beauty.” (And yes – my sparkle-obsessed son is a Libra, as well…born three days after my birthday.)
And if astrology is to be believed…is attraction to all things sparkly written in our stars?
Is it in our genetic profile?
Are we victims of marketing and consumerism?
Regardless, my little boy wants as much sparkle in his life as possible. And why not, eh? Doesn’t it make life better?

What Came First: the Princess or the Girl?

It’s not just that my son loves Disney princesses. He loves the entire kit ‘n caboodle of what society would label (unfairly) “girly” stuff.
Purple lollipops. (Not just any lollipop.)
Sparkly tutus
Barbie pink dream cars
Cotton candy
Fancy Nancy
Glitter this
Sequined that

Pink everything
Purple everything

It comes as a package. Walking down the street, he’s got a focused attention to detail that’s both annoying and astounding. He loves all dogs, but seeing a King Charles Spaniel is all the cuter. (And it’s TRUE! King Charles Spaniels are cuter…than labs or regular spaniels or golden doodles.)

It’s a fascinating cliché. Listen, I don’t want to put anyone in boxes. And it drives me crazy when people make assumptions about any of my tastes (even if they’re right.) So I try to accept that a girl can be equally inspired by Lego’s as by Elena of Avalor. (Oh, you haven’t heard of Elena? You’re missing out on Disney’s cornering of the Latina market.) And I think boys could choose a red crayon just as easily as wanting to hog all the blue Legos.

But my wonderful son in all his gender non-conformity is 100% on the predictable path of all things “girl”.

So I wonder: does he like all things sparkly/princessy because he loves those things, or because he already knows they’re “girly” and that’s what he likes?

How can so many little princess girls (and boys) be so consistent along the lines of their consumer tastes? Is it a genetic attraction to sparkles and pink, or is it cultural programming at a young age?

What came first? Princess or girl? Is it nature or nurture?

I don’t think my son’s yet influenced by his surroundings or peers. He knows that some kids say “boys shouldn’t like princesses” but he shrugs and keeps loving princesses. I’m proud of that. (Disclaimer – I LOVE that my son knows what he likes. And when I show a little annoyance that he’s so princess all the time, he’s quick to smack me down. “Daddy! I like princess! Stop telling me what to like!” Good for him. Proud papa.)

Another disclaimer – I was exactly the same way, as a kid. I wanted to love all things “girl”. How did I know? Hell. I don’t think there was an explanation. The time my dad asked me, “Why do you have to like red? Can’t you like blue?” And I responded (in the sassy way I hear from my son ALL THE TIME, now), “Fine. I’ll just like pink, instead,” because I KNEW that would piss him off to no end.

But why did I like red? (And everything Strawberry Shortcake – the original, thankyouverymuch – and Princess Leia and Barbie, etc., although I hid this attraction by kindergarten. I was far less secure than my own kid. Yay, son!)

Nowadays, I’ll flip through Netflix “suggestions” and my son will choose anything with a pink fairy/cheerleader/girly icon, even when he has zero idea what it’s about. But does he want the sparkles? Or is it cuz it’s “girly”?

It seems to me there’s a universal attraction to sparkles/pink/twirly things. But some kids diversify their interests with pink and dragons and skateboards and Sofia the First.

But not my kid. He’s full-out. And it seems to me that the gender-non-conforming boys I’ve read about and known are all full-out.

So what causes that? Their deep attractions? Or that they know they’re bucking convention and that makes them go so full-out? The same goes for boys who are 100% driven to Legos/dinosaurs/star wars/breaking stuff. 

Is there a Kinsey scale of aesthetic taste?

What do you think? Why is it so often so full out?


Brexit: Maybe It’s Not So Bad?

Before iPhones, NYC taxi drivers were reliably fun conversationalists.

They still are in London.

London cabbies are some of the most uniquely intelligent people in the world. They have unparalleled geographic knowledge set to navigate the mind-boggling maze of tiny London streets.

And due to my lack of a cell phone, the cabbies were immediately engaging and friendly.

And opinionated.

After hearing our accents, three cabbies started our ride off by asking, “So, what do ya think of your new president, there?”

Please…get me started.

And those conversations immediately led to talk of Brexit. Every single one of our drivers voted “Britain Out”. And they were quick to talk about it.

And boy do I feel schooled.

It seemed to me the Brexit vote meant 52% of Brits were short-sighted and wanted closed borders; that, indeed, they were being xenophobic not wanting low-wage workers from Romania or Estonia, let alone refugees. And it seemed they were tired of having another “boss” in Brussels, the EU capital.

I just thought – “What are you? Texas?”

But the earful I received from London cab drivers illustrated more sides of the debate.

First off, one of the guys said, “We are a country of human rights. We welcome millions of people. We’re a diverse culture of opportunity with people from all over the world. But Brussels was accusing us of being ‘racist’ because we wanted to deport some real criminals…people who’d killed, repeatedly robbed, and lived without contributing to British society.

In short…“bad hombres”.

And Brussels told the Brits they were violating human rights by wanting to deport criminals.

<<As I write this, I’m panicking that I’m endorsing Trump-speak.>>

I’ve always been pro-European Union. I studied its history, organization, and economy during a semester in Paris. It’s necessary because democratic countries with intertwined economies don’t go to war with each other. Further, in a globalized world of interconnection, there needs to be international organization to create an even playing field.

Despite the growing pains of integrating millions of people from formerly Eastern bloc countries, there is more universal prosperity…thanks to Brussels.

But I’ve always had a nagging feeling that “too big to fail” is bad. As with corporations that get too big, government entities could, as well. It’s a law of economics, physics and biology. (I don’t know what law. Don’t quote me.) But corporations naturally grow until they’re too big and unmanageable: Pan Am, Sears, Office Depot.) The same goes for countries: USSR, the British Empire, Rome.

And I wonder how close the USA is to being “too unmanageably big”.

If we can look past the underprivileged who’d be left behind were the Southern United States to separate from the North, you have to admit…local control can more directly serve its public than ungainly bureaucracies from far away. (I’m simplifying greatly, I know.) But I wonder when/if the US should just break up?

And the same goes for Britain and the EU. No one could possibly accuse the Brits of being violators of human rights, terrible polluters or dishonest purveyors of chemical-laden-broccoli-masquerading-as-organic-produce.

So if the Brits want to be able to control who comes in and out of their country, is that so wrong? They’re already committed to absorb 20,000 Syrian refugees. They’re not exactly closing their borders.

But they’re tired of a mass-European government seeking a “one-size-fits-all” set of laws dictating a common lifestyle for the Portuguese, Poles, Romanians, Irish and British.

Every one of the cabbies said, “The EU was originally an economic agreement. But the free movement of goods shouldn’t necessarily mean the free movement of people or social laws because we aren’t Estonia and we aren’t Cyprus. What works there doesn’t necessarily work here.”

I ain’t sayin’ I’m pro-Brexit.

But I’m also not anti-Calexit. (Or New Yorxit. Or Arkexit.)

So…are these things really so different? Wanting more local control in an age of globalization and ungainly international bureaucracies?

This is ALL a result of money and capitalism, capitalism and money.

If we “just” want the economic benefits of int’l organizations, there need to be some standards, otherwise it’s just multinational companies making agreements to benefit themselves and their CEO’s. They won’t abide by labor rights or environmental rights. (Evidenced by NAFTA and TPP.)

But Brexit is different. I’m confident the Brits aren’t violating rights.

So I’m finding the Brexit process just interesting. The UK always had a foot in and a foot out of the EU. Maybe it’ll be fine.

That said, I think the EU is absolutely necessary to regulate rampant capitalism. It’s a necessary institution that certainly needs some reforms.

That’s what governments are in 2017.

We all want to have more freedoms and fewer rules. But it’s also juvenile to just throw up your arms, take your toys and stomp home because you don’t like the rules.

It’s about electing leaders who are able to think in the long-term instead of with instant gratification.

That, in itself, requires leadership with long-term vision.

And ain’t that the thing society’s complained about for millennia?

This conundrum isn’t new and it isn’t different. Ultimately, we’re all in this together.

Except for the UK.

Good luck, blokes.

Next up: France. Don’t screw this one up, amis. Frexit is totally different and totally terrifying.
I dunno…what do you think?

Adele, THAT Adele, was our Nurse

So a few nights ago, I found myself in a London emergency room.I know: whaaaaat?

My younger son had a collision at a playground and bit his tongue. There was a lot of blood, but it stopped quickly. He said he wanted to go home, but daddy was all, “Kid, we schlepped all the way to the Princess Diana/Peter Pan playground because the damn blogs said it’s a ‘must’. We ain’t leaving til you’ve found the Lost Boys and made someone walk the plank.” 

He cried more.

I bought him ice cream.

He stopped crying. Shocker. 

The boys played for another hour. 

Getting ready for bed, younger kiddo says, “My tongue is bleeding, again.” 

I might have rolled my eyes.

“Come here, Buddy,” I beckoned, “and stick out your tongue.”

He did so. And I stared into a lingual abyss. Seriously – the Grand Canyon had etched itself into his little 3yo tongue. 

I went white, took a video, sent it to some medical friends in the states and they said, “Yeah. You should have it checked out.”

So, for the second time in 6 months, I took my youngest kid to an emergency room in a European city. (I think I failed to write about being in a French E.R., last summer with the same accident-prone kiddo. I’ll get to that, eventually.)

We climbed into a cab, and we arrived at the hospital that Google said was closest. 

I walked through the automatic doors and a man greeted me saying, “How can we help?”

“My son bit his tongue.”

The man gave me a form to give my name and address, my kid’s name and address, and our physician. No endless pages of disclaimers and waivers. Just my name and number. He could’ve handed me a scratch piece of paper and asked, “Digits, mate”. 

Then we were ushered to the children’s waiting room.

I was disappointed to leave the main waiting room. It was the kind of crowd you’d expect for a Sunday night in the center of a massive city – mostly skinny crackheads and hooligans. They all had great accents, despite their ragged appearances. Like…the 35-yo rave-going meth addict with 4 teeth who loves soccer and drugs…and he’s cast in Pirates of the Caribbean Part 11 for his 4 jankety teeth and unhealthily skinny body.

Or the hot Black man who’s just come from “playin’ football wiff mah mates and I cracked my leg.” And he’s cast as the best friend in Love Actually.

Or the 28-yo who should have his shit together, but he’s a millennial who opted for a life of crime on the streets and petty drug-dealing and he’s the romantic lead in Trainspotting 2. 

Misery in a London hospital on a Sunday night is so charming!

So many accents on this tiny island, and some people are incomprehensible to each other.

In the children’s waiting room, the parents were equally charming. I refrained from asking if they’d all been guest stars in various UK shows. I’m sure they think the same of us – hillbillies, NYC cops, everyone overweight. They probably think we’re all TV clichés, too. 

After a mere fifteen minute wait, the nurse called our name. 

I swear to you: it was Adele in a nurse’s costume. I kept thinking, “where’s the hidden camera? PLEASE tell me she’s going to bust out in ‘Chasing Pavements’ while examining my kid, to whom she keeps saying, ‘Oh, darlin’, yo’ jus’ so luuuhv-lay.’”

She said “lovely” 17 times in five minutes. It was pronounced, “luuuuhv-lay”. 

She looked at my kid’s tongue and said, “Ohhhhh, yoo’r a cheeky mohnkey, ahn’t you?”

Seriously – where’s the hidden camera?

She continued – “Usually we don’t do stitches, but if they prove necessary, we’ll send you next door to the main clinic. Now, the emergency room is free of course…”

I’m sorry…what? Free ER?

“…but if we send you for sutures, there’ll be a charge. I assume you have travelers insurance?”

“You mean…like the red umbrella company?” I laughed, nervously, suddenly anticipating a $3,000 ER visit.

Adele smiled confusedly.

I confessed “Who, me? Come to London for two weeks with two children under five, during which time we just go from playground to playground? Why would I need traveler’s insurance?”

She smiled graciously…as one does in England. “Well, there’ll be a charge.” 

“Like…thousands?” I grimaced. 

“Oh, goodness no. Perhaps fifty pounds.”

I laughed. (Those people arguing against universal health care saying “Europe is a mess!” need to bite their own tongues and come sit in a European emergency room, themselves. With all the professional background workers as entertainment.)

Finally, the doctor came in. He was South Asian (Pakistani? Indian?)…with a Hugh Grant accent, piercing green eyes, and oozing charm. Perfect for the next romantic lead of the next Love Actually spin-off.) 

He looked at my kiddo, made a few jokes, and explained in his gorgeous accent, “We don’t do stitches on tongues. They heal quickly because they have so many vessels. We don’t do stitches unless it’s the tip of the tongue that’s about to fall off.”

And that was it. We bid goodbye to our new friends in the waiting room – the woman with her feverish son who sounded like a “Wildling”, the dad who was clearly “Targeryen” and the twins who were both clearly Lannisters. Yep – all the major tribes of Game of Thrones, all in my emergency room. 

Seriously: the entire country must do background work.

I never did find the hidden camera.

More London Woes

You guys! I just keep doing it. I’m a moth to a flame. 

A despondent liberal news junkie gravitating toward CNN. 

A rat returning for just one last nibble off the near-carc…I don’t know where that metaphor is going.

I keep falling for my the guidebooks and guideblogs that say, “Spend a scrumptious day with your child wandering baroque delights of Henry VIII’s residence as your child marvels at the throne rooms and bedchambers used for the British elites of the sixteenth century.”

And I was like, “Yeah. This’ll be the day my 3 and 5-year-olds will become history buffs and focus on museum plaques written in higher English than the History Channel could hope for.”

I need to close the books “London for Kids”. It’s not catering to idiots like me torturing their kids who just learned to walk and talk two years ago. 

And why did I fall for the charms of a saccharine travel blog that’s really just a lifestyle and advertising webpage for one of those asinine people who take instagrammable pictures of cappuccinos and laughing children skipping in frilly dresses past (stolen) Van Goghs? Seriously, this particular blogger’s list of “10 adorable things to do with little kids” is really just geared toward the billionaire single with their only child who happens to be an impeccably calm and inquisitive British girl who’s perfectly coiffed and behaved. This blog said, “take your child on a hundred pound (!!!) tea party on a converted double-decker bus. (And then hand your child back over to your personal Mary Poppins and go about your business being fabulous in London.)

That ain’t me, kid.

Parents: I’m speeding up my “traveling with little kids” travel series and jumping to the conclusion – little kids are the reason for all-inclusive Cancun resorts. There’s no thought necessary. They eat whatever they want, they go to the kids’ camp all day, and you’re left alone.

Learn from my mistakes.

Is this just a humble brag that my kids are experiencing London before yours are? I doubt it. Yeah, it was cool when my kid pointed to Big Ben and shouted, “Look! The Eiffel Tower!” But thank goodness this trip didn’t spawn from over-aggressive, money-as-no-option helicopter parenting. We are here to save my sanity from six straight months of solo parenting and to celebrate my partner’s West End conducting debut. 

And we have free housing. One takes advantage of such situations, doesn’t one?

But as the children yanked my partner and I at light speed Henry VIII’s dining hall, and I was genuinely interested to read about the succession from the Tudors to the Stuarts to the Hanovers, I had the thought, “What if this is my kids’ only experience traveling in such world heritage sites? What if we don’t make it back when they’re teenagers, capable of appreciating the history but hating me even more for dragging them on a ‘boring trip through churches and museums’?”

Talk about princess problems.

Get over yourself, Gavin.

Just stop for a quick pint and go suffer through another museum. It’s a rainy day. Let the kids watch the iPad in our corporate apartment.  

Carpe the diem, as one does, doesn’t one?

London With Kids: Don’t.

Day 2 in London (or was it 3 or 1? I’m confused) had the kids begging to return to the playground where we ended up after seeing ancient mummies and marble breasts. (That playground had a kid-friendly zip-line.)
I had other plans in mind to torture them (and myself).
I took them to the science museum because everyone says it’s spectacular.
After a fairly quick Tube ride (do I put “Tube” in quotes?), I told the information desk, “I’ve got 2 hours to kill with two kids who collectively have 24 minutes of attention span. What should we do?”
“Well…you could walk through the center.”
“Um…OK. Just…let the science lead us?”
I listened to her instead of to my instincts screaming “ASK SOMEONE ELSE!”
We walked through the center.
On that ground floor there were feats of engineering – 1950’s Citroens, experimental airplanes, antique locomotives, space capsules (stolen?) from the USA, space suits (stolen?) from the USSR, and a laughable replication of the American lunar lander that – I shit you not – was made of cardboard and aluminum foil. (The lighting was strategically dark. I’m not sure anyone else noticed.) And both kids declared, “This is boring.”
My older son is interested in anatomy. So we went to the “Who Am I?” exhibit. Like most of the museum, it was geared toward 10-year-old brainiacs, not 5-year-old insaniacs. There were some interactive iPads that took up-close pictures of retinas and had brain games too difficult for me to enjoy, let alone my kiddos.
And then there was the “puberty” iPad that explained how hormonal changes make testicles and breasts grow larger in adolescence. You actually touched body parts to watch them grow.
Yeah, my boys LOVED that.
But in the interest of not shaming human physiology (or being too puritanically American), I let them…um…diddle.
For another half hour I dragged them around the museum just to make sure there wasn’t anything interesting for their over-active minds, and we landed on the top floor at the paid exhibit “Exploro-lab.”
I shouldn’t complain – the museum was free. But I quickly grasped that THIS was where we were supposed to have a hands-on extraordinary experience. That information desk volunteer should be fired. After all, they have national healthcare; she’ll be fine.
The ticket seller tried to up-sell me on an annual membership because, if we wanted to return after the mere 45 minutes we had before closing time, it’d be a better deal.
I gave her my best, “Girl, I used to work in an NYC restaurant. We invented the up-sell. Don’t even try it,” stare.
We entered a haven of scientific ecstasy. There were playground slides of varying speeds demonstrating friction, a pulley system allowing kids to pull themselves to the ceiling, an interactive laser show, etc.
This was a science museum for little kids, as opposed to a 3-D encyclopedia of snore-inducing explanatory panels.
And I realized these “London with Kids” books I’ve been following don’t make the stipulation they’re catering to an older segment of whiny tourists: 9 & 10-year-olds.
Furthermore, I realized, “oh, yeah. No one should ever be stupid enough to take 5 & 3 year-olds to international cities and expect them to do anything more than play on playgrounds.”
No matter how much money you have (…chosen to waste), you can’t be a control freak or have high expectations for travel with these little ones.
(Don’t answer that.)
Maybe I should start another genre of travel guides – “Int’l Travel with LITTLE Kids.” My first entry, “Chill the hell out, find a playground, bring a flask.”
It’s just so hard when you’ve come all this way and you want to make use of your time (and money).
At any rate, I’m glad I learned this lesson early into our trip, and not on the last day. I’ll try my best to lower expectations.
So. Over the next ten days, how do I squeeze in visits to Buckingham Palace, the Natural History Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, Stonehenge, and a walk through the market stalls of Camden Road to see the retro punk rockers?
I know. I’m setting us up for even more annoyance. My to-do list even bores me.
I’ll buy a flask for pre-mixed martinis and a thermos for coffee.
(And yes – I upgraded to the “annual membership” to go back to the cool part of the science museum.)
Eye roll emoji, here.