Live! Naked! Grills! (Not a Typo)

A few nights ago, we decided to leave both boys home alone. We felt confident that Justin could take care of himself and his younger brother for just a few hours while we had an evening with other adults. Not only did Justin meet my expectations, but he far exceeded them in a very classy way. Garrett, on the other hand, is barred from any and all electronics device in the house that have access to YouTube.

The evening began with me giving Justin one simple instruction: ‘Make sure you leave your cell phone on so I can contact you in case of an emergency and to let you know when the pizza is going to arrive.’ When the time came, I called him and his phone went directly to voicemail. He had clearly turned it off. That was the one thing I told him not to do! After three or four tries, I resorted to Alexa. I knew I’d be able to ‘Make an Announcement’ from my phone and the whole house would be able to hear me. Once he heard the announcement, he called me back. (There’s a reason he turned off his phone. I’ll get to that in a minute.) The rest of the evening was uneventful.

When we got home, Justin pulled GWE into his room for a brief conversation. I joined Garrett in the den and watched tv with him before I had to put him to bed. After speaking with Justin, GWE came up the stairs and told me that she needed to tell me something in private. I met her in our bedroom, and she proceeded to tell me this story, from Justin’s point of view:

Right after we left the house, Garrett ran upstairs to watch television and Justin went into his room. It didn’t take long for Justin to get bored, so he went to see what Garrett was watching. As soon as he opened the doors, Garrett quickly shut off the television and looked very guilty. Justin, realizing something was amiss, asked Garrett what he was doing. Garrett refused to tell him or hand over the remote. Justin spent several minutes trying to build up Garrett’s trust by promising not to say anything to us…and that’s why he offered to turn off his phone as a sign of good faith.

Once they had an agreement, Garrett handed Justin the remote. Justin turned on the TV and discovered what Garrett had been hiding. He had gone onto YouTube and decided to look up, “LIVE NUDE GRILLS.” That’s not a typo. That’s really how Garrett spelled it. Garrett was watching video after video after video of half-naked girls making out with each other. (By the way, the Parental Control were on and he was still able to watch this stuff.) In a very nice way, Justin reprimanded Garrett and told him that this was not appropriate for him to see and the he shouldn’t watch it anymore. Garrett agreed, in theory.

GWE and I were half hysterical/half horrified as she told me this story. Because our YouTube account is under GWE’s name, she was able to look up what he was watching. WOW!!! This is what it showed:

GWE and I agreed that YouTube needed to be removed from the family television in the den. It took me a few minutes, but I got it done. Several days have passed and Garrett has not mentioned anything about it. He must have noticed that YouTube is gone by now, but maybe the unsaid is better than the said.

While Garrett’s viewing habits were completely inappropriate and I am outraged…..I do have to give him credit for having excellent taste!

Summer Camp Isn’t For Everyone

This is the pre-camp photo. The post-camp photo is a lot less cheery for one of us.

Over the Summer, both Justin and Garrett attended their first sleep-away camp. It lasted for two weeks and allowed GWE and I just enough time to leave town, get drunk while wine tasting, act like adults again, and then return to Los Angeles as if nothing happened. When we returned, we were met with multiple letters from both boys. Garrett was having the greatest experience of his life and was considering relocating to the woods of Sanger, California full time…at the age of 7. Justin had a different experience. He was not having a good time. He wanted to make it abundantly clear to us that he was having such a terrible time that he never wanted to go back to camp ever again.

Part of me wanted to yell at him and tell him that he better start having fun because this camp was f@#$&%g expensive! But, I decided to take a different route. I didn’t have the greatest camp experiences either when I was a kid. So, I sympathized with his situation and decided to send him this note instead:

8/5/19

Hi Justin –

I saw the letter you mailed home and I’m sorry to hear that you’re not having a good time. I want to tell you about my experiences at camp and give you some advice on what you should think about doing. You’ve got five days left and I think you can find a way to have a great experience there, but it takes a little bit of work and you have to be willing to do things that aren’t in your comfort zone.

Grandma and Papa sent me to a four-week, sleep-away camp starting at your age. I had a miserable experience. I had a very hard time making a connection with anyone. It felt like most of the kids already knew each other or they had more in common with each other than I did. To make matters worse, my cousins were at the same camp. I think it was Grandma and Papa’s hope that (at the very least) my cousins would be friends with me and show me around. They did not. They completely ignored me. I spent the first year alone and I hated every minute of it.

And, it was hot. If you think California is hot, you haven’t felt the humidity of a HOT Georgia Summer. It was so hot on the first year that we couldn’t do any of the lake activities because they lake had dried out. You could walk out on the dock, but it was 10 feet above dry soil. Half the camp’s activities were supposed to be on the lake. But that year, there was no swimming, canoeing, fishing, etc. (Somehow the lake dried up, but Poo Pond was always full. I never understood that.)

Yes, there were activities that I didn’t want to do and thought they were beneath me. I didn’t want to sing songs and I didn’t want to dance around and I really, really hated “Color Wars.” (If they don’t do that, I’ll explain it to you later.) I disliked anything that required running or getting dirty. Just like you, I loved everything tech…and there was little to none of it at camp.

If you ask Grandma, I’m sure she remembers me sending her a note that basically said, “If you loved me, you’d get me out of here.” I’m sure she wasn’t thrilled to get it and she did not come to get me. I felt like I was alone in a place that I didn’t want to be. I was stuck.

That may have been the moment that I realized, it wasn’t up to anyone else to provide me with a good time…or provide me with friends…or make sure I was having a good experience. The truth is, it was completely up to me. So, I’m imparting this (hard-earned) wisdom onto you: Your experiences in camp (and in life) are entirely up to you. If you don’t want to participate and you don’t want to have a good time, you don’t have to. But, if you give a shit 😊 (like I tell you in golf), you may be surprised by the wonderful experiences you end up having by accident.

As I often tell writers, “Bad Decisions lead to Good Stories.” Don’t think going down the waterslide is a good idea? Try doing it anyway. You may get a good story out of it. Don’t think that trying the ropes course seems safe? Try it…you will definitely have a good story. Don’t want to ride the ATV? A good crash will always lead to a good story. Don’t want to fish? Go fishing…and then tell everyone about how the BIG one got away. Good stories and weird experiences are the things that help us create friendships. “You think you had a weird experience on the lake, let me tell you about mine….”

When it came to camp, I made 1 friend. His name was Shlomo. I’m not kidding. He was an exchange student from Israel. He was a weird kid, but my kind of weird. And, then we met a kid named Billy Mitchell. He, too, was weird. He wasn’t Jewish, but his parents sent him to a Jewish camp anyway. And finally, there was “Ice” – the only African American kid in an entirely Jewish camp. Slowly, and by participating, I found friends and we were weird together.

Buddy – it’s up to you. I’m glad you love your art, but it’s sometimes hard to make friends with your nose buried in your sketchbook.

Please try to have a good time. Do something new, something you’ve never done before. And, when you come home, you can tell me how your bad decision led to a great story.

Love you,

Dad

You’ve Got A Friend in Me

Who wouldn’t want to be friends with this guy?!?!?!?!

Garrett came home from camp in a foul mood. I heard him stomp through the front door, turn the corner, march into his room, and slam the door shut. I decided to give him a few minutes to calm down before approaching him. After about 30 minutes, I found him sitting on the sofa and gently asked, “Hey buddy. How was camp today?”

“Terrible,” he replied.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I inquired

He let out a long, audible breath and looked at me. “Fine. I had a terrible day because I asked ‘Sarah’ (not her real name) if she would be my best friend at camp and she said yes.” Confused, I replied, “Isn’t that a good thing?”

He continued, “…but then, her friend whispered in her ear and then she told me that she didn’t want to be my friend anymore.”

“Oh. I see. I’m sorry to hear that.” For a moment, we both sat in silence. He had vented and I was trying to determine what to do with the information. I could have gone with the theory of “Boys Rule, Girls Drool,” but that only goes so far. Ultimately, I chose honesty.

“Well, Garrett. Sometimes boys and girls (and grown men and women) like each other, but their friends get in the way.  If you like someone and want to be friends, you should tell them and don’t worry what their friends say. I’m sure it made Sarah feel good to know that you wanted to be her friend.” I suggested he try playing with her again the next day. If she wasn’t interested, that’s OK too.

He seemed satisfied with the answer and refocused on the video game he was playing. Garrett is clearly going to be OK. It’s Sarah’s loss…and Sarah’s friend will eventually be shunned by her friends because of her terrible judgement and gossipy ways. She will then grow old alone, spending her nights eating single-serving frozen dinners, and living with her 40 cats who will ultimately eat her face off when she runs out of cat food. (Is that too harsh? Not when you reject my son, it’s not.)

 





White-Man’s Overbite

What started as a funny, throw-away line in “When Harry Met Sally” has become our family’s “call-to-action” when it comes to dancing. It’s called, “The White Man’s Overbite.” It’s a silly, seductive dance I used to perform for GWE to make her laugh or let her know that I was really appreciating the Yacht Rock radio we were listening to. But, once Justin and Garrett took notice, the dance has taken on a whole new (even sillier) life of its own.

Here’s how you do the dance: put your two front teeth over your bottom lip (show your teeth and curl your upper lip,) both thumbs in the Fonzi “HEYYYYY” position, and then gyrate your hips. The instructions are simple, but each person’s dance is completely unique…and a guaranteed way to be single for the rest of your life.

I now present to you, two different versions of “The White Man’s Overbite!”





My Sommelier

I’ve never been much of a wine drinker. My preferences lean more towards harder liquors like scotch, bourbon, and whiskey. Occasionally I’ll order a Dirty Vodka Martini or Moscow Mule (because I like that Pimm’s Cup.) But, I have had a difficult time appreciating wine. Maybe there are too many varietals or maybe I can’t wrap my head around tastes described as “leathery” or “dirt.” The appreciation has been lost on me. Until now….

Now, I’ve begun to appreciate it a little more. I’ve discovered that it’s not about the tannins, body, or alcohol content. It’s about the Sommelier. And, I have the best!

Occasionally, GWE will have a glass of wine with dinner. Garrett and Justin aren’t very interested in tasting it, but they do insist on smelling what we’re drinking. One evening, Garrett decided to take it one step further by serving us.

Once my glass was empty, Garrett vanished into the kitchen only to re-emerge minutes later with a towel over his arm and the wine bottle tilted as to “present” the wine label to me. I thanked him as he poured me a healthy glass. He returned my bottle to the kitchen, but promptly returned with GWE’s bottle. We had both been served.

Garrett has served us over and over again during family meals over the past few months. At first, I was concerned that we were enabling him in some way…or that he was enabling us. I decided to Google whether on not I was a good parent for allowing this to happen or if I was adding to his already long list of issues that he’d have to discuss during his “Mommy and Daddy Messed Me Up” therapy sessions as an adult.

According to the World Health Organization, if children see adults appreciating wine – smelling, tasting, discussing, and consuming it with meals – it may bode well for their drinking habits in college. And, those who learn to appreciate wine, become “pricklier” about the alcohol they consume, which reduces their consumption at parties.

So, while you might see an underage child Sommelier serving his parents alcoholic beverages, I see this as a great moment in parenting! (And, yes – I wrote this sober!)