I’ve never really considered myself a writer. I was always told I was supposed to be an artist. Instead, I began a career as a tree trimmer and a tower climber, and have been doing one or the other for the last twenty years.
But over those twenty years, I noticed that I had developed a knack at making people laugh with my ridiculous imagination. Whenever something happened that was funny, I would begin imagining scenarios that would make that funny situation even funnier, and people seemed to find it genuinely funny.
One day on a whim, I started writing down all the funny little stories I had created in my brain. And I found plenty of inspiration for new ones from my wife and two mischievous daughters. I put them all on a blog called “The How-Not-To Guide To Parenting and Marriage”, and again, people seemed to find it funny. I enjoyed writing on my site for several years until my life got too busy to keep coming up with new material, and I stopped posting.
Years later, while recovering from multiple shoulder surgeries, I began to resurrect some of the stories and put them on a Facebook page and self-published book, both also known as “The How-Not-Guide To Parenting and Marriage”.
I still have a hard time thinking of myself as a writer. I feel more like a funny guy who just happens to write it all down. I guess as long as people still seem to get some sort of enjoyment out of it, I will continue to pursue it, regardless of whether it feels like I am a writer or not.
Editor’s note: he’s totes a writer. Yes, we can say totes. Check out this hilarious excerpt from Jon’s book, and then go buy it.
WAVES OF PARENTING
In a perfect world, or in the world of perfect parents, the bringing up of a child is a precision operation. There are policies and rules designed to mold sons and daughters into responsible, honest, productive adults. These rules are etched in stone and enforced with perfect consistency by parents who never waiver from their dedication to nurturing excellence. The end result is almost a sure thing, their children will end up being doctors and CEO’s and hosts of nationally televised game shows.
As much as I’d like to, I don’t live in that world.
I love my girls, and I want the very best for them, but I willfully admit that my parenting skills bend and shake like a palm tree being battered by a hurricane.
Last Thursday, as I lay on the couch in a position much like a corpse in a coffin, my darling children broke into their nightly fight. Hannah was assaulting Natalie with the vacuum hose that had an extension on it, using it like a sword and creating a dust cloud with each swing. Natalie’s weapon choice for the evening was the cat, which she held out in front of her, letting its wildly flailing claws work like a flesh ripping chainsaw. The dog was also a part of the melee, barking and snapping at whichever girl seemed to have the upper hand at the moment. And all this was taking place between my couch coffin and my glowing portal of escape (the television).
I knew that as the authority in the room, I should be disarming the combatants, lecturing on proper conflict resolution, and calming all form of domesticated wild beast. But to do so, I also knew that it would involve at least ten minutes of physically restraining and separating all involved, followed by five minutes of both parties yelling simultaneously about how the other had started it, then another ten minutes of debate, and a final round of “you always take her side” and the appealing of my verdict and punishment. Total time needed to resolve the riot in a responsible parent manner was estimated at thirty minutes. So I chose the only course of action that I was capable of in my exhausted, after-work state of mind . . . . Non-involvement.
To avoid feeling completely guilty over my apathy, I did muster the energy to yell, “You are both going to clean up any blood spatters and sweep up any hair or teeth that are ripped out!”, and with that being said, I did my best to watch the rest of my TV show while the battle raged on in front of me. But this incident only represents one half of the parental wave.
After a period of my expending as little amount of energy on parenting that I can get away with (or “choosing my battles” is the more popular term) I begin to feel guilty. I realize that I am failing as a father. I imagine how my lack of handling different situations and issues that arise, will lead my children to a life of crime. Then I imagine them joining a Manson-like cult and ending up on CNN, while news crews camp outside on my lawn to get a camera shot or interview of the horrible parent that created these monster children. So now, motivated by guilt and energized with a regained determination to train my children correctly, I become . . . . . . . . SUPER DAD, otherwise known as “dad is in jerk mode again”.
In SUPER DAD mode, I feel like I not only have to begin parenting like the perfect parents do, but I have to make up for lost time during my apathetic phase, so I watch them like a hawk. I think of character building lectures while I’m at work, and deliver them during dinner with all the fervor of a fiery Baptist preacher, pounding the pulpit (dinner table) and shooting life lessons, wisdom and scriptures at them like automatic gunfire. I wait for them to step out of line like a panther waiting to pounce on its prey. If they seem to be actually behaving, I go in search of crimes to convict them on. And my fervor causes me to make less and less sense:
Me: “WHY ARE ALL THESE CLOTHES DIRTY!!?”
Child: “Ummm . . . . . because we wore them?”
Me: “WELL YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BE ALLOWED TO WEAR CLOTHES ANYMORE IF THEY JUST END UP BEING DIRTY!!!”
Me: “WHO BROKE MY DR. SPOCK BOBBLE HEAD!!??”
Child: “I did dad, a month ago, and you’ve yelled at me seven times for it now, and suspended my allowance”
Me: “Oh . . . yes, that’s because I am trying to show you how the mistakes you make can affect you for the rest of your life!!”
After a period of being in SUPER DAD mode, the laziness begins to return, and I feel like I’m being too hard on them. I start to lose interest in perfect parenting, like a child who has lost interest in a toy. So the pendulum begins to swing toward the apathetic side of the spectrum. Back and forth, back and forth, apathetic, militant, despite my best efforts to find a reasonable, consistent middle ground.
My only hope is that the end result will be an average of both the extremes. I suppose my inconsistency could also cause them deep seated psychological problems later on in their lives as well. But then, if they end up on CNN wearing an orange jump suit and shackles, I can at least blame it on their mental instability.
The “How Not To” Guide To Parenting And Marriage is available on Amazon here.