Monthly Archives: February 2013

Knotty Behavior

As sharp as my daughter is, there are some things she’s just not in a rush to learn. Many’s the time in her so-far seven years of life that she tries to leap ahead in some area she is not nearly ready to tackle, while ignoring some critical skill she should be mastering beforehand. Shoe-tying was my Waterloo…my Custer’s Last Stand…my Bonnie and Clyde shooting it out with the feds and getting riddled with lead moment.

Try as I might to get my daughter to sit down and learn to tie a basic knot, she continued to soldier on with as many slip-on and Velcro-tabbed shoes as she could. When she was forced to wear shoes with laces (that we sent her out of the house with tied shoe-tyingtightly) and they came undone during the school day, she would convince teachers or fellow students to tie them for her (she’s named after a goddess; of course she can get people to do things for her…).

It got to the point where using reason and logic wasn’t getting through to her (it rarely does when she’s dug in her heels), shaming her that most of her classmates could do it wasn’t working (she’s too self-confident to be daunted by what others do that she can’t), and yelling wasn’t working (that often works better than logic when she’s in a stubborn mode, but not on this subject it wasn’t).

Finally, I resorted to bribery, and bought a DVD she desperately desired and told her she couldn’t have it until she learned to tie her shoes. Mind you, she really, really wanted this particular Scooby-Doo movie. In part because she liked it and in part because she really pissed me off one day in the store almost a year earlier when I had the DVD in the cart for her, and the consequence of her misbehavior was that I put it back on the shelf.

Oh, yeaahhhh…and I also told her I would never buy it for her…ever…nor would she be allowed to watch it on TV if it came on nor would she be allowed to rent it until that day she moved out on her own. (Yeah, it was one of those kinds of misbehaving days).

So, buying it for her and telling her she could have it…and be assured I would never take it away from her even in a moment of anger…was HUGE! She was excited about getting that DVD. However, as with so many things in life, her stubbornness won out.

The damn DVD she wanted so bad that *still* wasn't enough to do the trick.

The damn DVD she wanted so bad that *still* wasn’t enough to do the trick.

The DVD sat in my office at home for months. More than six months, I think, before she finally decided she was ready to be tutored about shoe-tying and subsequently mastered the basics in less than a half-hour (See! Why didn’t you listen to me months ago and get this out of the way?!) now that she was finally invested in the process.

Still, there’s been a sloppy aspect to her tying of laces in the several months since then, given that she’s usually in a rush to go do something like watch “Good Luck, Charlie” or “Wizards of Waverly Place” on the iPad. So, in recent weeks my wife keeps telling her she’s going to trip over her untied laces and die a slow, agonizing death due to blunt trauma and internal bleeding and possibly being pecked to death by crows because she’s paralyzed from tripping and twisting her spine…all if she doesn’t do a better job with the knots.

Or something like that…

(I never made such dire predictions…uh…OK, fine! Well, at least I hadn’t openly spoken such warnings to my daughter in the previous couple weeks because I was tired of her ignoring me. Happy now?)

…anyway, upon picking her up at school this week, and asking her to switch from snow boots to gym shoes since we weren’t going to have time for her to hit the playground that day, I watched her make big loops that were loosely knotted.

“Honeybunch,” I said. “Hold on.” I knelt down, and grabbed the base of each loop right next to the knot. “Sweetie, do this, just like I’m doing, and pull really hard. When your fingers are that close to the knot, you’ll get it nice and tight so that you won’t come undone as much, especially if you double-knot it.”

She looked at me, smiled, and said, “OK, daddy.”

She mimicked my effort on her other shoe, and voila! Perfect tying.

A long seven-year-plus road to get there, but I think the final step has been taken, and we’re at the end of the journey on that particular battle.

Now on to untie some of the other knotty issues in her basic life skills, like following directions in the order we give them and watching for traffic when she plays outside…

All In the Presentation

So, I try to occasionally go that extra mile so that my daughter can get some kind of tangible evidence I love her, since I don’t know if the mere expression of love through kind behaviors, hugs and tucking her in every night is quite enough for her. One day in fall 2011, she was being a bit persnickety about eating lunch, so I tried to dial into creative skills other than my writing and editing skills, since I was pretty sure a well-worded note about eating lunch wasn’t gonna cut it.

So, I made her this lunch:


That, folks, is a hamicorn, and a tasty example of the species, I’m sure. A body and head of ham, with horn and tail of carrot julienne, legs of dill pickle and eyes of blackberry, traipsing under a full moon of ranch dressing across a field of pretzel sticks and blackberries (those ones aren’t eyes…that would just be *gross*…as well as suggest the hamicorn had just used its horn to pluck out the eyeballs of rival hamicorns…jeez, how do you people get such sick thoughts in your head?)

She loved this lunch. So much so that I was inspired (nay, compelled and forced, rather!) to do similar visually stunning lunches for several days thereafter, and periodically over the course of several more months. Occasionally, she remembers this meal and entices me to do something similarly ambitious again.

Sadly, though, none have matched the creativity of this effort (though copying prior meals seems not to matter to my little goddess…devouring one hamicorn to sate her divine and ravenous hunger was enough, apparently).

Tea for Two

OK, after yesterday’s rather intense and not-so-cheery post, the inaugural one of this blog, let’s get to stuff more directly related to the goddess of this blog’s title. Yes, my currently 7-year-old girl who is, in fact, named after a goddess (interestingly, there is another woman living near us whose uncommon name is the same pronunciation as my wife’s, and her daughter is named after a goddess, too…though a different one).

As we left the library where darling daughter’s weekly after-school art club is held, it occurred to me I should probably tell her I was launching  a new blog that very night that would focus mostly on the ups and downs of raising  her  and what I’ve learned from that so far.

After all, this petite firecracker is going to quite likely be responsible for determining whether my advanced years will be spent locked in an attic, sent to a good retirement community or whatnot.

She was actually pretty thrilled; more so than when she realized a couple years ago that I wrote a superhero fiction blog and she insisted I would have to write a story with the title “Fishboy and Madman Strike Again” (I’m pretty sure the plot I came up with to go with that title wasn’t anywhere near what she had in mind). Her enthusiasm over being written about publicly was undampened even when I mentioned I’d talk about the things that drive me nuts, too. I guess being the center of attention is enough for a little goddess, regardless of what kind of attention.

In any case, it took less than a minute after I told her this for her to say, “You know, Daddy, I know what the first thing you write about should be.” (Psssst…don’t tell her she got upstaged by Quvenzhané Wallis for the first post).

Warily, I said, “Yeeeesssss?”

“You should talk about the daddy-daughter tea you and I went to. Just you and me.”

Honestly, dear readers, there isn’t much to say (plus, it was in May 2011, so I don’t remember all the details), but who am I to refuse such a sweet suggestion? It was held in Portland, Maine, at Dobrá Tea, and hosted by a great organization called Strong Fathers Maine. I’ve never felt a need to avail myself of their services much because I’m either already a strongly committed and involved father…or I’m too cocky for my own good. But I do love what they stand for and I’ve had a couple opportunities to cross paths with them (pleasantly; no fisticuffs involved…this isn’t Fight Club, folks)…and the daddy-daughter tea was a really nice chance for me and the wee girl to go to a very nice tea house, peruse a menu of teas bigger than some phone books, have some fresh-baked sweets and bond in the midst of other daddy-and-daughter pairings (and maybe one or two trios).

Honestly, I’m not a huge tea guy, and probably won’t be until someone invents some teas that taste like I’m drinking  coffee, India pale ale or Mountain Dew Code Red. But it was a really nice time with her. I spend a  lot of time around my daughter already, working from home and all, but it was one of the few times it felt like we had some kind of magical, father-daughter bonding time. You know, aside from the times I sometimes still pick her up and she wraps her arms around my neck and buries her face in one shoulder; my back hates me for it now that she’s passed the 50-pound mark, but what the hell…

…anyway, got a little distracted there.

While there’s no grand tale to weave about the tea event (even though I seemed to have rambled on quite a bit), the least I can do is share a photo of us there (there are three other photos, much cuter, but I’m not trying to plaster her face all about the web). For the record, the reading material you see was from a comic book shop just down the hall; I’m doing my best to slowly mold her into a comics nerd)


Whether they’re boys or girls and whether you’re a mom or a dad, hold ’em close, folks. They’re gonna grow up on us all too soon. One of mine already has, the ungrateful cur!

Better Watch What You Call *MY* Daughter


I was thinking something along the lines of a nice, light, funny, heartwarming post to launch this blog on parenthood and raising a really wonderful yet challenging daughter. And then the Oscars had to go and muck that all up by bringing out my raging inner daddy bear when a few people decided it was open season on a damned 9-year-old girl. (I’m sure it has something to do with the fact my little girl is just two years younger and has roughly the same shade of skin—a color that will to make her an easy target of the ignorant.)

If you haven’t been trapped under a boulder in a remote desert landscape today, you likely know at least some of the hubbub around Best Actress contender Quvenzhané Wallis. Let’s start with the big one, when someone at satirical/humor publication The Onion posted on the @TheOnion Twitter account on the night of the Academy Awards:

Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?

QuvenzhaneWallisFolks at The Onion did take the tweet down after about an hour, clearly feeling the heat and/or realizing a line had been crossed, though it took them until around noon the next day to manage to issue the apology.

But that wasn’t the only indignity the girl had to endure. Because then there was the reporter who didn’t know how to pronounce Quvenzhané’s name and, instead of asking how to pronounce it or saying Miss Wallis instead, called her by the name Annie (a role the young actress will play in a remake of the musical “Annie” soon).

Oh, and then the Seth MacFarlane joke that either said Quvenzhané will officially be too old for George Clooney in 16 years or that she’ll be too old for him when she’s 16 (I’ve heard conflicting versions, but both are disgusting in the context of a 9-year-old girl).

As if those three things weren’t already enough, how about the Academy voter who gave this quote (anonymously) to The Hollywood Reporter?

“I also don’t vote for anyone whose name I can’t pronounce. Quvez—? Quzen—? Quyzenay? Her parents really put her in a hole by giving her that name — Alphabet Wallis. The truth is, it’s a very sweet but immature performance from a 9-year-old. I’ve directed children. They probably did a thousand takes and put the best ones together.”

I’m going to work backwards from my list, because it’s that “cunt” tweet that’s really in my craw and I need to rev up for that.

So, Anonymous Academy Voter won’t vote for a person whose name he can’t pronounce? I wonder if, when another young actor, white girl Dakota Fanning got a nomination for a Screen Actors Guild Award at age eight in 2002, making her the youngest nominee in history, he would have said, “I can’t vote for someone named after a couple states…and not very good ones at that.” Doubt it. Look, he could have simply said Quvenzhané’s performance didn’t do it for him. But he went the extra mile or two on that 9-year-old to make fun of her name and suggest and assume that the performance he thought was “just OK” must have needed tons and tons of takes to get to that point, meaning he assumes she sucks as an actor, really. Not that he was there to know that a thousand takes were needed or anything.

And a joke that sexualizes a girl not even in double-digits yet, who’s just entering into the limelight thanks to the film “Beasts of the Southern Wild”…really? What the hell is wrong with you, Seth? I don’t recall Kirsten Dunst…another former child actress who was white instead…getting called a slut or ending up the butt of a bunch of bawdy jokes when she did her breakthrough role at 10 as a vampire trapped for centuries in the same childish body she was when she became a vampire. A role in which she had to act like a grown and sexual being at a certain point in the film. A role in which she kissed Brad Pitt, 18 years her senior. That was a role that involved, by necessity, sexualization, and didn’t get her made fun of. Yet we get a strong young black girl in a movie, and we make bawdy jokes about her?

And as if it wasn’t bad enough the reporter decided Quvenzhané’s name was too challenging and used an entirely different one, people were getting on the little girl’s case for correcting that reporter, as if she were making an impertinent reprimand of an adult she shouldn’t dare to challenge. How do you think you’d like it if someone made up a name for you instead of simply asking how to pronounce your given one?

And so we come back to the “cunt” tweet from The Onion. OK, perhaps it was in reference to Quvenzhané correcting the reporter. Maybe that was the inspiration. And you wanted an absurd tweet. So, you couldn’t say something along the lines of “Quvenzhané given a time out backstage at Oscars after talking back to nice reporter” or “Quvenzhané forced to write ‘I won’t correct an adult until I’m 13’ on the red carpet 100 times” or something funnier along such lines? You have to apply “cunt”…a word that should rarely be applied to an adult woman…to a girl of 9? I bet no one called Jodie Foster a cunt in public when she was a child actor. Oh, yeah…another white child actor.

Aiming such a tweet at a sweet-natured, never-done-wrong adult actress might have given it a level of absurd humor. In this context, it was a random insult hurled at a child who came to the Oscars with a puppy purse. That’s something my own girl would do!

And the thing is—and let’s just get this out now early in the blog because I’m the father of two biracial kids, one of them grown now, and racial issues will arise here—that shit I’ve described was racial. As I’ve already hinted by pointing out the white child actors who never got ridiculed and humiliated in public to this degree on the nights they were out at award ceremonies that might honor them with a highly valued statuette.

Did all four events arise from racism? Maybe not. Any one of those four humiliations Quvenzhané endured could have been chalked up to random stupidity or a misstep in the heat of the moment. That is, if any one of them existed alone and in isolation. But four on the same night? The difference between Quvenzhané and other child actors before her at award shows who were treated with respect is that she’s black. Plain and simple.

Too often, we are quick to minimize the accomplishments of black kids. Oh, she got a minority scholarship, not a merit-based one (as if minority scholarships are handed out to all kids of color without a thought as to their potential or grades). Oh, I wonder how many white students weren’t able to come to this school so that the college could get a few colored kids in to meet a quota (as if that handful of white kids were forced to go to vocational school instead). Oh, he’s so well-spoken! (as if being black automatically means you talk jive, funk or ebonics). And so on and so on.

So, a little girl makes a splash in the film world with a role that most people saw as deep, moving, honest and a breakthrough. Whether she’ll be a long-term success, who knows, but she clearly made a mark.

And yet, in the end, this little brown-skinned girl doesn’t get the respect or deference those white actresses got before her. Instead, Quvenzhané becomes Annie the talentless cunt who will be sleeping with George Clooney soon.

I’m disgusted, because my daughter is bright, eager, artistic and brown-skinned, and only two years younger than Quvenzhané…

…and when Hollywood is this ignorant to one of their own in this way, I have all the proof I need that we’re far from post-racial in this country.

And my daughter may need me a lot in the future. Because I guarantee, you call my daughter a cunt, and your crotch (assuming you’re a man) will look like one after I rip off your junk and cram it in your mouth.

OK, now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s see if I can switch to sweet and funny mode tomorrow around here.