Friday, July 30, 2010

As Parents, Our World Just Got A Whole Lot Rowdier

Our three-year-old must have been going through some kind of past-life storming the beach at Normandy trauma while her mother, brother and I were trying to eat.

We were in public … at a busy restaurant.

The Girl jumped out of her chair, ran to the booth behind us, screamed, bounced on the seats, and said “hi” to a really nice couple too polite to give us dirty looks. My wife and I just sat quietly, ate our dinner, and wondered if we’d ever be able to come back to that restaurant.

“She’s acting crazy,” our five-year-old boy said.

Why, yes. Yes she was. Even before my wife and I had children, we knew this wasn’t how they were supposed to act. But, after our little clones grew into their own personalities, our parameters for what counted as “acceptable” public behavior got really, really wide.


Before Kids: Children will remain seated and say “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me,” in polite, quiet tones.

After Kids: Restaurant night out is like going to a professional hotdog eating competition, full of screaming, cheers and food shrapnel. As long as parents have five semi-uninterrupted minutes to cram down their food, they consider it a pleasant dining experience. However, tasting that food is a luxury. I don’t think I’ve eaten restaurant food slowly enough to taste it in five years.

Grocery Store

Before Kids: Children will remain seated quietly in the basket, never grabbing candy off the shelves or begging for a $4 box of cereal just because they want the prize.

After Kids: Run, scream, push your sister into the produce sprinkler, eat that handful of grapes, take food out of other people’s carts. Whatever. If we get out of the grocery story without a bill for destroyed property, it’s a good trip.


Before Kids: My child will hold my hand throughout the zoo, ask plenty of questions about flora and fauna, and will get fruit instead of candy.

After Kids: Is that little Joey in the lion enclosure? I hope the lions are OK.

Movie Theater

Before Kids: I’d never consider taking my child to an age-inappropriate film and when I do take him to a movie, he’ll sit quietly and use the bathroom when I tell him to.

After Kids: I don’t think they make G-rated movies anymore. Hey Brittany, sit down and stop dancing for that couple behind us. You missed the dinosaur eating that guy’s head.

Waiting Room

Before Kids: While I wait for my doctor’s appointment, I’ll engage my children in activities I brought from home, like coloring, looking quietly at books, and algebra.

After Kids: Billy, I think that lady you’re climbing on has tuberculosis. Turn your head when she coughs. Oh, and maybe you’d better drink this bottle of Purell.

Of course, I got all the “After Kids” examples from my wife. She said she lost her Parent of the Year Award eligibility months ago. I think I’m still in the running, until we eat out again.

Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt

Jason’s latest book, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at

Monday, April 05, 2010

Did The Boy just say one of ‘those’ words?

Sometimes things happen, things so unexpected you’re not sure they happened at all. So you ask yourself, “What just happened?” And when you get the answer you realize what you’ve been dreading to hear all your life, you’re an idiot.

My five-year-old sat in the backseat of the car as we ran errands. Unlike car trips with my three-year-old daughter who keeps a running commentary on everything that comes to mind, like butterflies, puppies and anything to do with the color pink, car trip conversations with my son generally consist of short, guy sentences, like:

Me: Hey, son. What are you thinking?

The Boy: Nothing.

Me: You feel OK?

The Boy: Yeah.

Me: How was school today?

The Boy: I don’t want to talk about it.

Me: What do you think of the Royals chances this year?

The Boy (pointing somewhere I can’t see because I’m driving): Hey, Dad. Look, a dog’s pooping.

But today was different. Sure, the sentences were still short, to the point, and conveyed as little information as possible, but he said something I’d never heard from him before.

“Hey, Dad,” the Boy said. “Look at that damn house.”

The words left his mouth normally, vibrated through my ears and bounced around the inside of my head for a while as they usually do, but this time none of them stuck.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Look at that damn house,” he said again. “It looks like it’s going to fall down.”

Then he laughed, as he should have. Houses falling down are funny.

Damn. That was it. My five-year-old, who loves Legos, is nice to pets, and laughs at SpongeBob Squarepants, said “damn.”

There are many moments in a parent’s life – and by many moments I mean every single one of them – when the parent has no idea what to do. The Boy said a word that would not go over well in any school, pre-school, Sunday school, obedience school – anywhere.

There are two ways Americans handle things, 1) ignore the problem and it will go away, or 2) fix the problem. No. 1 would have been easier, but my wife would have frowned upon that tactic.

“You know, that’s really not a very nice word,” I said.

“Fall down?” he asked. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw his little face trying to make sense of that bit of wisdom.

“No,” I said. “The other one. Damn.”

Getting closer to his usual in-the-car sentence structure, he said, “Oh.”

“How about we don’t say that word anymore, OK?” I asked. He nodded, and everything was good in Guyland.

But I had to wonder what other words were in his head, just waiting for a time – like the church Christmas program – to come out. I was a bit worried, not for him, for me. I didn’t have to ask where he heard that word. I knew.


Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt

Jason Offutt teaches journalism at NWMSU. His latest book, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at