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Been There, Dunked That by Brian Dunkleman: The Stick


One of the many challenges of being a stay-at-home, occasionally single father is finding new ways to kill the day. One of my greatest discoveries in Los Angeles was Peekaboo Playland, a huge indoor playground with arts and crafts, great toys and a bouncy house, which is basically a mosh pit for toddlers. It also offers free internet and unlimited coffee for the parents.   

They have a twisting tube slide there, and one day my son kept trying to go up it. Now, I like his “outside the box” thinking and choice to take the more challenging path, but not as much as I like avoiding concussions. After the third time I told him not to do it, I pulled him aside and sternly said, “that’s the last time you’re gonna do that, got it?”

“Got it,” he replied.

“Say yes sir!”

“Yes sir!”

I patted him on the back and said, “OK, go have fun.”

I turned to see a mother looking at me with an absolute look of horror on her face. I said, “Oh I’m sorry, sometimes I forget I’m in California. That is called discipline. It’s what you do so your child won’t grow up to be an entitled little (expletive).”

Ok, I didn’t really say that to her, but I thought it very loudly in my head.

You know what my father used to say to me when I was a kid? “Straighten up or I’ll get after you with the stick!”

Try saying that to your child at the local playground and see how fast Child Protective Services gets called. Now, did my dad ever hit me with a stick? No. There was no stick. It didn’t exist. But there was the thought of the stick, and that was enough for me to make the decision to straighten up.

Some of the things I’ve heard come out of parents’ mouths in L.A. are absolutely baffling to me.

I once heard a mother at the playground say to her daughter, “It’s ok if you don’t want to share.” Really? This is something you instill in a three-year-old? In the most narcissistic, self-centered town on earth? Congratulations mom, your child will make an excellent reality show cast member someday.

One day at the park, my kid and I were watching some ducks. A father and his two sons came over to join us. One of the boys looked at my son and out of the blue just punched him in the chest, knocking him to the ground. My son didn’t cry – he just had a look on his face of absolute shock and disbelief. Like he couldn’t believe how that could possibly be an option.

The father said “No, no, Jagger. That’s not one of your brothers.”

OK, let’s break down everything that’s wrong with that statement: “That’s not one of your brothers.” Indicating that it’s frowned upon to punch strangers, however it’s totally acceptable to beat the crap out of your siblings. And even more disturbing – “Jagger.” Because considering the fact that the boy was approximately three, it’s more than likely his parents weren’t big fans of The Stones. They were fans of Adam Levine.

I weep for the future.

At least this father was making some kind of vague attempt to correct his kid’s behavior, though.

When my son was two, we attended weekly “Mommy and Me” classes, which by the way is a totally sexist name.

My son was playing with another boy and they started fighting over a toy. When I tried to intervene and correct my son’s behavior, the other boy’s grandmother turned, wagged her finger and shouted, “No! Let them work it out!”

OK. First of all, Gramma, put that finger away. This aggression will not stand at Wallaby.  And second, two-year-olds don’t know how to work anything out. They’re basically adorable idiots. A good rule of thumb? If you’re still firing butt-rockets into a diapey, you need guidance and instruction on everything.

Trust me, I don’t pretend to have all the answers when it comes to raising a kid. It’s hard.  Should you tell them it’s OK to not share? Probably not. Should you threaten to hit them with a blunt instrument? Definitely not. The answer is somewhere in between.

I’m trying to shower mine with love and affection, discipline him when necessary and hope he doesn’t grow up to be a jerk.

The world has enough of those already.

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