Category: real talk

The Uninformed Parent’s Guide to TikTok

Parent's guide to Tik Tok

 

Today, we’re talking about TikTok!

Now, if you’re over the age of 25, this may or may not mean anything to you. However, if you have kids under the age of 25, especially teenaged ones or younger, it should mean something to you. I am by no means a TikTok expert (TikTokspert?).  However, I have had some experiences with it, courtesy of  my son B, who’s currently 10 years old. Since I’ve talked to other parents who don’t know squat about TikTok, I figured that I’d share my limited knowledge in the form of a parent’s guide to TikTok. Let’s do this, FAQ- style!

 

I love Ke$ha! Tik Tok is my jam!

 

Sorry, person-older-than-TikTok’s-main-demographic. I’m not talking about that classic song.

 

Oh. So what are you you talking about?

 

I’m talking about TikTok, the social media app that has, as of this writing, over 1.65 billion downloads  and 800 million monthly active users.

 

That’s a lot of people waking up feeling like P. Diddy! What is TikTok, exactly?

 

Still not talking about the Ke$ha song, dude. Anyway, TikTok is an app from China, where users can upload short form videos and share them on the network. The videos are usually only a few seconds long and musically oriented. Lots of lip-syncing, dancing, singing, and random clips set to songs are what you can expect to find on it. Plenty of memes and challenges, too.  You know how you saw Ellen dancing to Old Town Road by Lil Nas X, and you pretended to know the song, when you really hadn’t heard it before?

 

I remember that day well.

 

A big part of that song’s initial popularity was because of how it blew up on TikTok, by people using it in their videos.

 

So TikTok  iS like YouTube for people who can’t be bothered to watch videos longer than a minute long?? No wonder kids like it.

 

Not exactly. But yeah, kids do seem to love this app.  Some of the stuff on there is pretty entertaining.  Plus, with all the silly filters and effects available when creating the videos, it’s a fun way to flash some creativity.

 

 

Sounds awesome! I’m going to sign my seven year old up for it ASAP!

 

Hey slow down, pal. TikTok has a minimum age requirement of 13 years old.

 

But you signed your 10 year old up for it!

 

We did, and, in retrospect, it was a mistake. The first time that B had an account, it was because a lot of his schoolmates were on it, and he had a case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out. I’m down with that Gen Z lingo, too, sometimes. Not really).  One thing with TikTok is that, unless you change the settings, anything you upload can be seen by anyone. K and I let B have an account,  and monitored what he was posting, but not as closely as we should have. It’s easy, especially if you’re young and  impressionable, to get caught up in likes/followers/comments chasing.   Long story short,  in most likely an effort to impress his friends, B posted some stuff that was reckless, embarrassing and inappropriate for a child of his age, so we deleted his account.

 

is tiktok safe for kids

 

 

Did you say the first time?! You mean you let him have an account after this?

 

Sigh. Yes, we did.  We thought B had learned his lesson, and was going to be more responsible.  So, like his fondness for Fortnite, we gave him another chance. And, for a while, he was OK. His videos were mostly just self-made highlight reels of him playing basketball in his room, set to non-explicit songs. I mentioned before that TikTok is a social app, and another aspect to that is the ability to direct message people. Yes, you can slide into DMs (more Gen Z lingo!) on TikTok. Anyway, long story short again, but more recklessness happened.  For example, he sneakily pulled an all-nighter one Wednesday night, to screw around on TikTok (with predictable sleep-deprived results the next day). He also posted a video in which he was lucky to have not resulted in more serious ramifications than it did.  Because of those, and some other incidents, we deleted his new account, for good this time.

 

And the award for “Parents Of The Year” goes to.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We screwed up.  Every kid is different, right? You want to instil a sense of trust and responsibility in your children, and when it doesn’t work out, it sucks. On the surface, most social media has lots of redeeming qualities, like the positive interaction with your peers. Beneath that, though, sometimes, lies a toxic, addictive cesspool.

 

 

what is tiktok

 

Daaaaang, Gina! Tell us how you really feel.

 

I’m just sayin’, you can’t be too careful when it comes to monitoring your kids’ TikTok usage. For instance, it’s all username based, unlike Facebook or Instagram. Say your friend is named Tyrone Biggums, and you want to follow him on TikTok. You can’t just search up Tyrone Biggums.  He might have changed his username to AshyLarry or something. It really does take some effort to find your friends.

I remember B showing me  a video that a girl at his school had made, which was pointless and dumb, but had a lot of likes. I quickly looked at her account, and all her videos were in the same vain, but she had, relatively speaking, a lot of followers. When I thought of how ‘out there’ she was,  how anyone with or without an account could watch her videos, and how fairly anonymous most of her followers could have been, it made me wonder. Who exactly was following this little girl and why? How many of these people were trying to slide into her DMs?

 

Is TikTok SAFE FOR KIDS, OR IS IT full of creepy perverts?!?

 

I….I don’t know. I’m also just a dad with a blog with limited experience with this app. I’m guessing, at the very least, it has the same ratio of normal people to predatory creeps as anything else online, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

 

Besides monitoring, is there anything else that I can do to protect my child on TikTok?

 

To their credit, TikTok does have numerous parental controls and privacy measures available, which can help you in this regard. It’s also a great idea to talk to them about cyberbullying, and about making smart choices online.

 

You’ve said a lot, but I still don’t get TikTok, or its appeal. I’m too old for this app.

 

Nice self awareness. While you don’t have to like it, you should get used to it, as, data breach controversy aside,  TikTok most likely isn’t going anywhere  anytime soon.

Shoot, like all cool, hip things of the moment, more and more businesses are jumping on the TikTok bandwagon too, as a way to build brand awareness. If you really want to win brownie points at your work, tell your boss that you want to open and run your company’s TikTok account.

 

Well, if you want to win brownie points, you know what to do.

Nope!

 

Just do it.  c’MON. We’re about done here anyway.

 

True.

Fine, here you go. And happy TikToking. Be safe out there, folks:

 

 

 

Full Circle

While in downtown Hamilton this weekend, I ended up walking past Gore Park. A ferris wheel has been set up there this month, which you can ride for free. Despite being alone,  I totally went on it, because, well, free ferris wheel ride, duh. As I sat in my carriage, going round and round, taking in the sky high view of my hometown, a Forrest Gump-like thought entered my head. Life is kind of like a ferris wheel. Through the highs and the lows, things tend to always come back around full circle.

 

 

downtown hamilton

 

 

I mention this because it relates back to the reason why I was downtown, to begin with.  The Good Shepherd was hosting their annual Christmas dinner event, at the Hamilton Convention Centre by Carmen’s, and I had signed up to be a volunteer.  While this was my first year volunteering, it was not my first year attending an event like this. Back in the day, things were always tight money-wise, to varying degrees. On more than one occasion, the best meal and toys that little Mike got over a holiday season came courtesy of the Good Shepherd, or a similar organisation which helped those in need. And yeah, for the longest time, I’ll admit to being a bit ashamed about this.  I grew up being the dude who was usually “without”, surrounded by people who were “with”.  These experiences were my own little secrets, ones that I tucked away and never really looked back at it.

Until this year.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to that dinner. One thing that I wasn’t expecting was the crowd. I arrived early, and had to wiggle my way through large throngs of people, to get to the door. Later, I was told that a lineup had formed, which stretched down to MacNab Street. All in all, there were more than 2000 guests and about 800 volunteers  in attendance.

 

Good Shepherd Hamilton Christmas dinner

The calm before the storm…..

 

The other unexpected thing was how much time and effort was clearly put in to make it seem like you had been transported to a winter wonderland.  A band and a choir comprised of volunteers performed holiday songs on the way into the dining rooms. The dining rooms themselves were festively done up. On the lower level, Santa was in the house, flocked with toys to give out.  Some of the giant inflatables for kids to play on even fit the snowy theme. At the exit, a donation area was set up, for you to grab free winter clothing if needed, to help stay warm.

 

Good Shepherd Hamilton Christmas dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was part of the serving team for the day, which basically involved running back and forth to the kitchen, making sure that there was always food on hand. No trays of turkey were dropped by yours truly, which was a win in my books. Another win was the amount of people young, old and in between, who came out to help. From my numerous conversations with other volunteers, the common theme seemed to be that, for many folks, this was annual tradition.  My team leader, Lisa, for example, had, over the years, done almost every job possible at this event, and happily kept everything on track for us. Annette Hamm, a local news personality, was also on my team. She was a repeat offender (when it came to volunteering there!) and offered me some great advice.

 

 

The Good Shepherd opens the doors to their dinner to everyone and anyone. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but I can only assume that people from all walks of life came out to eat.   At one point,  among the sea of happy faces, I saw a little boy who resembled me when I was younger, sitting at a table with his mom (I’m assuming). I’d like to say that we then locked eyes, and that something profoundly, magically, Chistmas-spiritually happened, straight outta Hallmark. In reality, he probably wondered who this weird guy was that was staring at him, and I had to run off to get more mashed potatoes. At the end of the event, though, I did see the mom rummaging through the donated winter items, and giving him a scarf, which made him smile as if he just got a Playstation 5.

 

Look, parents tend to reflect on the jobs that their parents did on them, and want to do better than that with their own children. I’m no exception. When I see B and J’s annual Santa wish lists, and how thrilled they are, when they actually get what they asked for, I remember all of those years when little Mike would make his own lists, yet those lists had no chance of ever being filled. Shoot, on Black Friday this year, I woke up early, to go to a Real Canadian Superstore to buy a TV. On the way out, because I spent more than $250, the store gave me a free frozen turkey.  When I told this to my family, no one cared, and we ended up giving it away to a friend. On some hungry nights, little Mike would have given his right leg for a right turkey leg, but here’s current Mike out here giving turkeys away, like it’s no biggie.

 

I guess what I’m rambling about is this. Though it’s been said many times, many ways (probably), everyone deserves a good meal this time of the year. Everyone deserves to feel a little bit special, too, especially kids. I’m glad that organisations like the Good Shepherd exist to help facilitate this.  While not profoundly, magically Christmas-spiritual, it did finally dawn on me that we should be more appreciative, because things really do come around full circle.  Ain’t no shame in that.

 

Happy holidays, y’all!

 

 

 

5 Times That I Failed As a Parent

 

Parenting, as we know, is a tough but rewarding gig. For every parenting win like this, though:

 

A sight seen less than Bigfoot – my three children all playing nicely together!

 

There are way more parenting fails. Head shaking, hand-wringing fails. Fails that can make you feel like a complete failure of a loser. Shoot, this past week alone, I feel like I’ve been throwing up Ls left and right, on the fatherhood front.  Here are five examples.

 

 

MY OLDEST SON DOESN’T APPRECIATE THE VALUE OF MONEY

I’ve told you before about B’s ongoing infatuation with the game Fortnite. Recently, he worked and saved up some money, so he could buy a Playstation gift card.  He really wanted the latest Fortnite battle pass, and a new skin. What’s a skin, you ask? This:

 

fortnite hot dog skin

 

When I was a kid, on more than one occasion, we had to scrounge up loose change, to be able to buy a cheap pack of hot dogs for dinner. Now, here’s my son spending perfectly good cash to buy a video game character dressed up like a bratwurst?

I’m sorry, people. I done messed up.

 

 

 RULES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN BY TODDLERS

 

I took B to his piano class at a music academy the other day, but I had little KJ with me.  KJ actually likes to go there, because the place has a toy area set up. We drove over, then walked along the snowy sidewalk to the building where the class was. When we entered the building, I noticed that there was a sign on the door of the academy which said to please remove your shoes.

No biggie, right?

B dutifully removed his sneakers and went in. KJ, however, refused to take off his shoes. Not just refused, but full on screaming and crying refused. It was an out of nowhere reaction. I was shell-shocked. I have no clue what was going on in his head. Maybe his feet smelled? Maybe he was embarrassed about his choice of socks?

Regardless, it’s been a minute since I’ve been apart of a ‘terrible twos’ tantrum, and that old familiar feeling of essentially being screwed set in real quick. If I took his shoes off, and carried him, that would just escalate the meltdown, and disrupt all of the classes. Standing in the hallway trying to be the stern father, followed by the bribing father, followed by the begging father, also didn’t work.  I couldn’t just let him go in, though, because cleaning up dirty wet little footprints wasn’t fair to anyone. I couldn’t even take him to the car. That would have involved leaving him in the hall while I went into the academy for who knows how long to find B, to let him know where I was going. After about  20 minutes, I scooped KJ up off of the ground (because no tantrum is complete without a good ol’ floor flopping), and carried him into the academy, shoes on, to sit on my lap for the rest of the class. He was less loud, but not quiet, during this time.

When the class ended, and we got back into my car, KJ, the newfound rebellious rule breaker, only had one thing to say for himself:

But I want to play with the toys!

 

Parenting fails

 

I FORGOT TO TELL THEM ABOUT R. KELLY

 

Driving home one night, with B and J in the back bickering about something ridiculous, ‘I Wish’ by R. Kelly came on the radio. I hadn’t heard that song in forever, so I cranked it up, to drown out the arguing. As I was jamming like it was Y2K all over again,  this conversation then happened:

B – “Hey, dad. Isn’t R. Kelly in jail?”

Me – “No. Well, yeah. He’s in jail while he’s on trial.”

J – “What did he do?”

I then thought about the answer, looked at my daughter in the rear view mirror…..and I chickened out, dude. That’s a complicated issue which I didn’t really want to talk about with her, or B, at that time. I mumbled something about he did some bad stuff, then we talked about what a trial is, and that was it.  Maybe that’s not a parenting fail. Maybe it is. I’m not sure. All  I know is that I didn’t feel like listening to ‘I Wish’ by R. Kelly anymore.

 

I put their health in jeopardy by making them swim too soon

 

Do you remember, back in the day, when your parents would tell you that you have to wait an hour after you eat, before you can go swimming? I gave KJ a hearty bowl of chicken noodle soup before his swim class the other day. This led to him turning the pool into a hearty bowl of chicken noodle puke.  For those keeping track at home, a half hour was not enough time, in this case.  Oops.

 

funny parenting fails

Who’s hungry for some soup now?

 

 

MY YOUNGEST SON IS AFRAID OF TURNING INTO A BLUEBERRY

 

KJ’s vocabulary has come on strong the last few months, and it seems like we hear him saying a new word daily. The other night’s word was “disgusting”. His toy cars were disgusting. Everything on his dinner plate was disgusting.  It was kind of annoying. I gave him a bath, and he complained that the water was disgusting. Finally, when he sneered, with one eye opened, that the soap was disgusting, I asked him why. With zero hesitation, he replied:

“Cuz soap makes you a blueberry! I don’t wanna be a blueberry! I’m a boy!”

Good googly moogly, there’s a lot to decompress here.  Is berrying by way of soaping even a real phobia?

Nope. And it’s really weird, Mike.

 

Thanks for the reassurance,  Sigmund Freud. Anyway, aren’t toddlers supposed to be afraid of monsters, and clowns, or Sir Topham Hatt, or something?  Clearly, I’ve failed at properly scaring my kids, in addition to failing at the other parenting stuff I’ve mentioned.

That’s all that I got for now. Until the next one, stay winning, y’all!

 

 

 

What A Wonderful World

 

I had a really vivid nightmare a few months ago. One of my kids and I were on a roof of a house, when they suddenly lost their balance and fell. I tried to catch them, but I didn’t. I watched them fall and land gruesomely on the hard ground below. This image stuck in my head, and even now, I’ll randomly remember it and get chills. What’s even worse, though, is this feeling that, despite me trying to hold on and protect my kids from the evils and dangers that exist in this world, as they get older,  it’s getting so  much harder to do this. I’m losing my grip, but I don’t want to see them fall.

 

I say this because I’ve been thinking a lot about a horrific incident that happened here in Hamilton this week.  As of this writing, the full details aren’t completely clear, but a 14 year old kid named Devan Bracci-Selvey was stabbed to death outside of his downtown high school,  in front of his own mother. Two teens have been charged with first degree murder, teens who allegedly bullied this kid since the start of the school year. How the bullying escalated to the point that it culminated in killing someone in front of their own mother’s eyes is unfathomable.

Like most of the community,  I was shook when I heard about this tragedy. Things resonate more when they are so close to home. I mean, yeah, I mentioned my stupid nightmare, but to actually helplessly watch your child die in front of your eyes in such a sadistic way is unimaginable. Like most parents, it made me think about my children, too. Everyone that I talked to about this tragedy all had the same conclusion:

This could have happened to my kid.

 

I nodded in agreement every time that I had heard this. It makes me wonder, though, why do I nod at this conclusion? It’s almost like we’ve come to expect the worst-case scenario, and live our lives based on that.

The other day, I found J and KJ playing “school lockdown” with their stuffed animals at our house. Two little kids making a game with some teddy bears, out of running and hiding for their lives, in the event that some bad person wants to do something bad to them. J’s school had practised a lockdown recently, so in her seven year old head, she thought it was no biggie to explain it to her two year old brother.   When I suggested to J that they play something else, she was confused. In her mind, a lockdown was just as normal as doing math work, or drawing pictures, or anything that she does throughout the course of a school day.

And you know what?

She’s not wrong in thinking this, because that’s the way things are nowadays. It’s important and necessary…but it’s still kind of heartbreaking.

 

One of the criticisms of Devan’s situation already is that “the system” failed him. If he was being tormented for months by these people, and he went to the appropriate authority figures for help, why wasn’t more done to protect him?  If my kids were being relentlessly bullied, or being relentless bullies, I don’t know what exactly I’d do, to make it stop, if my kids weren’t able to, on their own.

Bullying has been around since the beginning of time. I get that, and educating kids about bullying and its effects is key. But what if who you’re dealing with goes behind being a bully? Is the kid who gives wedgies the same as the kid who decides to bring a knife to a school and commit cold-blooded murder for God know’s what reason? Which system is at failure here? The school system that Devan went to, trying to get the bullies to leave him be? What about the system that didn’t recognize the signs that the bullying teen was disturbed, and needed to be helped before he kills someone? That goes beyond the school and starts at home, no? Was this an extreme example of bullying, or the deplorable work of a depraved young individual who should have been diagnosed and stopped a long time ago?

Did we all fail Devan?

Not long ago, J and I drove past a candlelight vigil for Devan that our part of Hamilton had put on. J didn’t know what had happened, or what a vigil was, so we talked about it for a bit, her voice full of surprise and sadness.  She asked me why the ‘bullies’ did that, and I had no good reply for her. I don’t know, man. I don’t know. I’m just trying to make sense of something that makes no sense, looking for answers that may never be answered.  I don’t know why Devan was targeted to be the victim of torment which eventually cost him his life. It really could have happened to any kid, and that’s a scary thought.

R.I.P. Devan Bracci-Selvey. While your story isn’t unique, unfortunately,  hopefully your senseless death is not in vain and we can all come to grips with ensuring that a tragedy like this never happens again.

24 Hours In Chicago

 

24 hours in Chicago

 

They say that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  Now, I haven’t planned anything with a mouse lately (or ever), but I have with my family,  and, to paraphrase Lizzo:

why plans great til they gotta be great?

For example, we recently got to spend 24 hours in Chicago. Having never been to The Windy City before, I had a rough itinerary in mind for us, to maximize our time. I then envisioned coming back and telling y’all about our adventures. Luxurious shopping sprees along the Magnificent Mile. Family photos in front of iconic Chicago landmarks like the Bean and the Michael Jordan statue. Self indulgent visits to the locations of my favorite rapper’s childhood home (Kanye West) and the house where my favorite TV show is filmed in (Shameless).  Scenes recreated throughout Chi-Town with the kids from my favorite 80s movie (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Potentially, it would be an epic Chicago day tour.

Believe it or not, our 24 hours in Chicago did not go as I thought that it would.  At all.  Here’s how it went down, to the best of my recollection:

9:00AM – Stopped by the Milwaukee Public Market to grab some breakfast, as part of the final stop on our Milwaukee trip.  Planned to then make the almost two hour drive to Chicago afterwards. Arrived at the market, and realized that most of the vendors did not open up shop until 10:00AM. Sat outside the market in our van until then.

10:00AM – Stopped by the Milwaukee Public Market to grab some breakfast as part of the final stop on our Milwaukee trip. It had started to rain heavily while we were waiting outside.  We got our food to go, and then headed to Chicago in some occasionally torrential downpours, surrounded by dangerously driving transport trucks. It’s a white knuckle drive.

11:00AM – Realized that the forecast in Chicago calls for rain all day.  Realized that we’ll have to call an audible on most of the potential destinations on my agenda. Touring around in the rain with three small, soggy kids is a recipe for a sucktacular trip.

11:50AM – Arrived at our first destination, Water Tower Place, to go the American Girl Store, a giant doll store that J had been excited about visiting for months. Upon arrival, discovered that affordable parking in downtown Chicago is harder to find than Steve Bartman’s whereabouts.  Some of the parking signage is harder to decipher than the Bulls’ old triangle offense. Proceeded to drive around aimlessly, looking for a reasonable, understandable parking spot.

12:20PM – Finally find a meter parking spot about two blocks away from Water Tower Place. Walked to the American Girl Store.

12:20AM – Kidding. It only felt like I spent 12 hours at the American Girl Store. We were actually there for an hour, with J loving every minute. If you’ve ever wanted to take your doll to a hair salon, or get your kid the same outfit as their doll,  then this is the place for you, by the way.

24 hours in chicago

 

1:20PM –  The rain kiboshed the shopping spree along the Magnificent Mile. Well, the rain, and the price tags at some of the high end shops. Instead, we walked through Water Tower Place and went to Macy’s. It had eight floors in it, and clearance sections galore, perfect for Canadians like us looking to ball out on a budget.  Unfortunately, it’s also perfect for toddlers like KJ to run around the store like Walter Payton, and to play hide and seek by himself in the clothing racks.

chicago day tour

KJ still made time to pose with J in front of this giant Lego statue, though.

2:10PM – Back to the car, to make our way to an actual iconic Chicago landmark – the Skydeck at Willis Tower (courtesy of tickets from my good friends at the Skydeck. Thanks again, guys!).  It’s about a 12 minute drive, to get there from where we were.

2:50PM – Finally find a parking spot after some difficulties, same reasons as before. We are basically closer to Water Tower Place than Willis Tower. We are at a confusingly worded meter, as well.  From it, I conclude that we have until 4:00pm to park there, before Oprah Winfrey would come to take our car away, and give it to a member of a studio audience.  My conclusion is most likely not even close to being correct. Regardless, we gotta book it to, and through, the Skydeck.

3:00-3:40PM –  the Skydeck was not busy, so we were in, up (a 90 second elevator ride!) and enjoying the 1300 plus feet lookout in short fashion. It really was amazing up there. Spectacular views of the city. Tried to take some pics for da ‘Gram, none of which end up making the cut. For example, here’s a family shot of us on the Skydeck Ledge glass floor.  If I look scared, it’s because I was scared. If our family looks short-handed, it’s because B didn’t want to come on the Ledge, for the picture. If KJ looks like he’s so hungry that he had to eat his shirt, it’s because he probably was.

Skydeck Ledge

Tried to get the kids to pose like Ferris, Sloane and Cam did in Ferris Buehller. Realized that they hadn’t seen the movie, and didn’t know what I was talking about. Settled for this shot:

 

24 hours in chicago

In the spirit of the Toronto Raptors’ championship and “We The North”, here is “He The North”, as in I’m way up in sky, rocking a Raps’ hat:

skydeck ledge

I’m sorry, peeps, I’m really not very creative.

 

3:45PM – Time to rush back to the car. At one point, instead of running, KJ dropped and starting doing push ups.

3:54PM –  Noticed KJ crossing a bridge, with some of Chicago’s majestic skyscrapers in the background, would make for a cute pic. Say cheese, little man!

chicago day tour

Thanks, white van, for the photobomb.

3:59PM – No sign of Oprah, so our car is safe. With rain pouring down, we decided to go to our hotel, The Willows Hotel, located near the Wrigleyville area of the city.  On the way, a rain-drenched Wrigley Field field was not in the cards, so I did the next best thing – walked around the stadium and took some mediocre pictures!

24 hours in chicago

chicago day tour

wrigley field tour

The rain is temporary, but the stupid look on my face will last forever.

 

5:00PM – Arrived at The Willows Hotel. It’s a lovely, smaller, boutique hotel, with an old, old school (think 19th century) feel. B will make repeated comments about how he can’t believe the TVs are so new in such a classic building.

6:00PM – The hotel is in a nice, quiet neighbourhood, so we decided to go for a walk.  We end up in a clearance section at a T.J. Maxx, because we are apparently all about discounted stuff from department stores which aren’t in Canada. I have this convo with KJ there:

KJ – I miss you!

Me – You can’t miss me. You’re right beside me.

*KJ runs away, runs back*

KJ – I miss you!

I should also mention that, throughout these 24 hours in Chicago, B had been complaining about a headache. The poor kid kept freaking himself out, and escalating his symptoms via incorrect self-diagnosis.  It started off in the morning as the slightest of headaches. Later, it increased to it hurting only when he shook his head violently, as if he was headbanging (note: B had never headbanged before in his life).  By the time that we are in T.J. Maxx, he is essentially sulking around the place, thinking that he needs a brain transplant.

6:30PM – K had looked up restaurants in the area, so we start to head out to decent sounding one.

6:32PM – K looked up reviews of said restaurant, and read that the owner was allegedly openly racist. We walk to a different dining establishment (in the rain, of course).

8:00PM – After dinner, we walk to get dessert/breakfast, from Stan’s Donuts.

Stan's Donuts Chicago

What? They were really good. That’s all.

8:25PM – Back to the hotel.  Yes, I realize that this seems early to call it a night for someone who wanted to maximize their 24 hours in Chicago. However, we were tired. Plus B had ‘inceptioned’ me, by planting seeds of doubt in my head about the crime rate in the city (“Hey dad, are we going to get shot in Chicago?“). Tapping out and enjoying the safety of our comfy hotel seemed like a good call.

6:00AM-7:00AM – Pack up, get some continental breakfast to go with our donuts, and check out of the hotel, so we can make the 8ish hour long drive home.

7:00AM – 7:30AM – We followed the Waze App, to guide us. The route that we take is very scenic, along the outskirts of the city.  Between the skyline and architecture, it’s beautiful looking, in the distance.

24 hours in chicago

7:30AM – We get led to the “Chicago Skyway”, which is a toll road. We pay $5 US to use it.

7:38AM – Waze leads us off of the Skyway, and onto another road. Huh? That’s it?!  I immediately want my $5 US back.

We continued our way out of Chi-Town, until it was nothing but a recent memory.

Hopefully, a return trip will be in order, in the future, and hopefully, things will go as planned, too.

But, you know what they say about the best laid plans, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Reclining Seats Are Trouble

To recline or not to recline. This is the age old question that has divided travellers on planes since the, uh, inception of reclining chairs on planes. Recently, however, that debate has crossed over into other facets of life where extra comfort is an option. Take movie theatres, for example. Some of them are equipped with reclining seats that let you lean back like you’re Fat Joe in 2004. And I use movies as an example, because, recently, I found myself smack dab in the middle of the reclining seat debate.

The scene was the local Cineplex, during the opening weekend of Avengers: Endgame. B and I had purchased tickets beforehand, and the theatre was jammed pack. In front of us was a man, with three boys. Irrelevant detail – the man kind of looked like the Trivago Guy. Second irrelevant detail – the man had a giant bottle of fancy water, which he clearly bought at a grocery store beforehand.

As the movie was about to start, a group of kids filtered in with some adult chaperones, who were all there for a birthday party.  They weren’t especially quiet, so the man in front of us took it upon himself to loudly yell at them about how noisy they were. The same message probably could have been conveyed politely, and not so rudely, but I digress. Anyway, not long after, the man decided to recline his seat.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve been to a Cineplex with recliners, but you can get a pretty good lean on, and this guy had a nice one going. He was in front of B, but if he was in front of me, he would have squished my legs. B seemed pretty chill, though, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. The man spent the rest of the movie in varying degrees of recline. At one point, it almost looked like he was in a rocket ship during takeoff (OK, I’m exaggerating, but you get the point). Again, though, B was fine with it.  I did try to recline once, too, but I immediately felt a knee behind me, so I propped back up.

B was cool, but he also was fidgety. It’s a looooong movie, after all. While adjusting in his seat, I did see him once, accidentally, kick Fat Joe’s, err, I mean Trivago Guy’s, err, I mean the reclining man’s seat lightly. The man didn’t say anything, but I told B to watch his feet, and not kick his seat. Even though his leg space was severely hampered, that was the polite, well-mannered thing to do. It wasn’t like we could move to another seat, either, as every one was filled.

Flash forward to the end of the movie. I saw B accidentally kick the seat again, while Rocket Man was getting ready for takeoff  as the man was reclined far back. The man then whipped around, and yelled at B to stop kicking his seat.

If this happened to you, and your child, what would you do?

Instead of kicking his seat,  kick him!

Uh, I guess that’s an option, but not what I chose.

See, I was really annoyed. He could have just asked B politely, to stop.  When it comes to kids, and there is an issue, I tend to take it up with the parents. If this man channelled his inner Hulk and just had to rage about the incidental kicking, he easily could have yelled at me instead. Snapping on B in this case seemed kind of bully-ish. Regardless, B did not deserve to be yelled at, in my opinion.

In the ‘to recline or not to recline’ debate, the main argument for reclining is that, hey, you paid for the seat, so you can sit however you want in it. If other people aren’t comfortable, too bad. The thing is, though, to misuse Newton’s Third Law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you choose to recline so far back in your seat that you are compromising the person behind you, then there will probably be some kind of consequence. Knowing that, are you really in any position to get upset at the resulting consequence? Dude is all up on B’s spot, so B can barely move without touching his seat, so dude gets mad that B touched his seat? To quote The Nappy Roots – awnaw, hell naw!

Sensing a confrontation going bad, and not wanting to miss the end of Endgame, I waited until the movie was over, to approach the man. He ducked into the washroom, which B had to use, too, so I waited there, near his group of boys, until he re-emerged. When he did, I basically told him, sternly, that he spent the whole movie leaned far back into B, and he had no right to yell at him for kicking his seat accidentally. He, wasn’t having it (shocker), and started to yell (More yelling? Double shocker) about how he wasn’t that far back, and that B and I didn’t have any manners, unlike his kids.  I walked away as he raged on and on.  I said my piece, but he didn’t get it, and I didn’t want to make the news over some pettiness.

source: https://www.fodey.com/generators/newspaper/snippet.asp

 

So what are the takeaways here? Well, for one, until reclining seats are abolished, I guess it’s is on us to know the etiquette in using them, and to be aware of the effects on those behind you.  I personally think that, if movie theatres, planes or wherever are going to be equipped with them, then the space in between the rows needs to be bigger, to not take away someone’s leg space. Clearly, this isn’t practical or realistic, but a dreamer’s gotta dream, right? Finally, based on my own informal research among some parenting peers, screaming at someone else’s child is a big no-no.  Whatever side of the ‘to recline or not to recline’ argument you choose, and even if you think the man in front of us was justified in being mad at B, yelling at a stranger’s kid over something trivial is a real prick move.

Speaking of prick moves, B told me that, while in the bathroom,  after our Trivago Guy-looking friend relieved himself,  he washed his hands. However, instead of drying them, he shook them off, shamelessly spraying water droplets onto B and a couple of other people. Now on that, I hope  we can all agree, no debate……

That’s just gross and ignorant.

 

Later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trapped In A Closet With Fake Newz Around The Corner

Three quick posts for the price of one today, dawg. Let’s go!

TRAPPED IN A CLOSET

A while ago, lil KJ outgrew his crib, so we upgraded him to his own bed. For the most part,  it’s been alright.  Sometimes, though, I miss the containment of the crib. Take the other night, for example.

I had put him down to sleep, which was a laborious, time-consuming process. About an hour later, I heard his door open.  He happily came bouncing down the stairs, fresh as a daisy.

Oh, c’mon!

The increase in bed freedom has led to an increase in late night wandering.  He usually comes to our room later, though.  Why he was up so early now, no clue. Regardless, I took him back to his room, and he was out within minutes.

I had promised J that I would crash in her bed (that’s a whole ‘nother story), so that’s where I ended up. At around 3AM, I was awakened to KJ screaming for me, and crying.  In theory, I should have just gotten up, but I was barely conscious, so I yelled for him to come to me. I must have dozed off, because, the next thing that I know, I heard KJ frantically yelling for me, plus a lot of indecipherable, two year old toddler gibberish (“Daddy, lkfjk$ajfuebt! Daddy!”).  I had to get up now. I stumbled around upstairs, in the dark, trying to find where the yells were coming from. It was like the sorriest game of Marco Polo ever. Eventually, I realized that the screaming was coming from B’s room.

Or more specifically, B’s closet.

See, B has a dresser in his closet, with a  gap between it and the wall. The gap is roomy enough for me to stand there, for example, but I’m too big to easily wedge myself into it. KJ,  presumably in his hunt for me, in the dark, decided that I must have been in that gap.

He got himself into it, but then couldn’t get back out, and started freaking.  I saw him, lifted him up, and as soon as I did, he calmed down. Fresh as a daisy, he then said ‘Oh, hi daddy!’ as if he was surprised to see me.

Legit, I think that, with R. Kelly making headlines, I had been reading a lot about him and his music lately. KJ must have been secretly reading along with me, too. Otherwise I don’t think that I’ll ever understand why he was trapped in a closet.

FAKE NEWZ

Speaking of big new stories, the Momo Challenge was a huge deal recently. As parents, K and I had the same sense of moral panic that you probably did, which meant that we had to confront what our kids were consuming on social media head-on. It’s crazy how impressionable a child’s mind is.

Take J, for instance. In her six year old eyes, a heavy set toy delivery man in a red suit, magic reindeers, unicorns and giant, chocolate-dropping bunnies are all very important to her. Shoot, for a minute, so was a ghost-hunting Elvis Presley.

Knowing this, a few weeks ago, J casually asked me the following:

“Is YouTube Real?”

I was slightly distracted, so I said of course it was real, without hesitation. Real live humans, posting real stuff. In retrospect, this was not the greatest idea.  YouTube is reality, but there’s also a lot of phoney bologna which can fool a naive young brain.  Later on, we had this conversation:

J – “Daddy, I’m scared of the Bad Elf.” ( J loves the Elf On A Shelf, and takes the whole thing very seriously. In turn, I have to treat it seriously.  Imagine her dismay when she came across some dastardly video, of elves behaving badly and ruining Christmas for kids). 

Me – “The Bad Elf isn’t real. You have nothing to be scared of.”

J – “But I saw him on YouTube.”

Me – “So?”

J – “You said YouTube is real.”

Oh. Right. I did say that.

Despite my attempts to explain myself, she was worried about this creepy little jerk for weeks afterwards.

Another time, while out for dinner, J  casually told us that she had been watching the news.  This was odd, as current events isn’t really her thing. She continued on by discussing how mermaids existed, and where you could go to find them.  Believe it or not, she didn’t see this on CNN. It was some random YouTube news channel. Fake newz at its finest, which I had to explain to her.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, despite the Momo Challenge being (most likely) a hoax, the idea of the Momo Challenge was terrifying, because of how easy it could be real.  In my house, anyway, it doesn’t always take much to sway one of my kids.

‘ROUND EVERY CORNER

Speaking of my house, I’d like to think it’s a pretty typical home. I still shake my head at the stuff that takes place in it, though. ‘Round every corner lies a possible surprise.

One night, I turned a corner and almost stepped on J. Instead of going to sleep as asked, she stubbornly put together a makeshift bed in her doorway, and slept there. I mean, based on the amount of effort that this would have taken, it would have been easier and more comfy to just to lie in her regular bed, but what do I know?

KJ was calling me here, on two phones (he drips too hard, as the kids say).  They’re actually a calculator and a broken walkie talkie. The reception on those things is horrible.

On first glance, I was grossed out when I entered B’s room and almost stepped on this. Luckily, it’s just a brown deflated balloon.

This time.

B wasn’t home when I walked into his room to see this, so you can imagine my reaction.  Luckily, it wasn’t some sort of bizarre, inappropriate class project. I found out later that he had an audition, and was practising some lines.

J decided to play dress up. Here she is, as Marshmello, the famous DJ. Curse you, Fortnite.

KJ was walking around eating and drinking. He then pulled a toddler David Blaine. I looked, and his snack had vanished. I finally found it here,  down low, on a shoe rack. I’ve heard of waffle shoes before, but this is ridiculousness!

Anyway, you get the idea. You just never know what to expect, with kids.

One thing that I do know, however…..is that this post is over. Later, y’all.

 

The Problem With Fortnite

In my house, we have a Fortnite problem. My son B is kind of obsessed, people.  Lemme explain.

Now, truth be told, I’ll admit to being a casual gamer. I first discovered Fortnite when I saw a video of Drake playing it.  Since I’m somewhat of a Drake Stan, I figured anything good enough for Drake is good enough for me. Plus, it was free. After playing it for a bit, I realized three things – firstly, I sucked. I was routinely killed quickly. Secondly, the game isn’t really free. It’s “freemium”. Like, it’s free to play, but your character is basic. To not be such a plain Jane, and to get better stuff so you might last longer, you have to either do well, to earn in-game currency (V-Bucks) to buy better stuff, or use real-life, hard earned currency to buy in-game currency. Running around dressed in a fish costume is cool, but not $20 cool to me. Thirdly, a big part of the appeal of the game is goofing around online with your friends. I have zero gaming buddies, though. Having strangers in weird outfits shooting my basic butt just wasn’t very enjoyable. Go figure.

Anyway, since the game is such a huge phenomenon worldwide, it was inevitable that B would discover it. It started off pretty harmless. One of his friends got him onto it, and the two of them would play together. Not long after, we got him a headset with a mic, since his buddy had one. Socialising with peers, no biggie, right? From there, things snowballed. Turns out, kids love Fortnite. Specifically, a lot of kids that B knows love Fortnite, including him. If he wasn’t playing, he was talking about playing. Or watching videos of people on YouTube playing. One time, he went off and came back wearing a ridiculous outfit. Backpack, goggles, Nerf gun, backwards hat. When I looked at him confused, he told me that he was wearing a Fortnite skin.

And don’t get me started on the dancing. OMG, the dancing! B is constantly busting out moves that he’s seen in Fortnite, which, while amusing, is also kind of annoying. Ever try to have a serious talk with someone, but midway through it, have to say “Hey! Stop flossing and listen!”? Oddly enough, pre-Fortnite, he was a stiff, awkward dancer. Now, though, he’s pretty slick. It seems as if other kids have stepped up their abilities to emulate the moves, too. At B’s basketball practises, boys who, on first glance, look like they have two left feet, all of the sudden will boogie like they’re auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance. I guess I gotta give Epic Games props, for improving the next generation’s co-ordination, worldwide.

For a while, B was happy just playing the game.  Unfortunately for B, like father, like son. He inherited his old man’s suckiness. Initial glee would turn to screams of ‘”No! Don’t kill me!” or sad comments like  “Hey guys, can you wait for me? I died.”

Compounding the situation was that his friends all seemed to have upgraded characters and weapons. He was stuck with the cheapo, free ones. One day, he said this to me:

“My friends all have battle passes and make fun of me because I’m a newb. Can you buy me some V-Bucks?”

Those are all English words, but I didn’t know WTF those sentences meant.  The gist of it was that he wanted real money, to buy stuff in the game, so he wouldn’t suck. Newbs are slang for beginners.  His birthday was right around the corner, so, luckily for him, he did get his wish. He got a gift card that he used to get V-Bucks.

No joke, overnight,  after he bought some new skins, he went from this  sorry, basic B, to a cocky, bold, trash talker, making fun of newbs. Like, less than 24 hours ago, his game was lame, but now that he’s dressed as a giant tree making it rain, he’s stuntin’ on some fools?!

There’s a bunch of other parenting things, as well, about Fortnite, that need to be monitored. Being careful talking to strangers, for example. Making sure he’s playing nicely with his friends, for another. Keeping track of his time, too. Yo, If you ever want to see someone lose their mind, try telling a kid that they have five minutes left to play Fortnite, then, in five minutes when they protest that they need more time, turn the game off, anyway.

They’ll explode like this, except worse.

The final straw was a social studies test that B had recently. It was about looking at a map and naming the provinces and capitals in Canada.  Normally, he gets good marks……but he failed it! Now, how in the world of Carmen Sandiego does a boy, who can easily look at a map in Fortnite, memorise every nook and cranny in it, and successfully parachute down to a location on the map of his choosing, not know where Ontario is, in Canada? He lives in freakin’ Ontario!  Yeah, between that and some other issues, it was time to take away Fortnite for, uh, at least a fortnight.

And that’s where things are currently. B can talk about it all he wants, and do the dance moves, but he’s not allowed to play it.

To any other parent who thinks their child has a Fortnite problem….I feel your pain.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sneak in a round or two of Fortnite Battle Royale.

What?

B can’t play, and there’s no point letting his V-Bucks go to waste. Later, newbs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top 7 Cruising Songs (According to a One Year Old)

One of the big developments in the ol’ Daddy Realness household these last few months has been the ever improving vocabulary of little KJ. Between the indecipherable baby babble is the odd word or two that you can actually understand. And not only that, but he will use his words to communicate what he wants sometimes, too.

Take music, for example. Before, we would just play whatever, no questions asked. He’s probably heard more random sports talk radio and 1990s hip hop while riding with me than any one year old would care to admit (if they could even admit it).  Nowadays, though, he’ll demand to hear his favorite jams.

Like, loudly demand.

Like loudly, repeatedly demand, to the point that I have to stop listening to Nas’ Illmatic album, or Steve Philips talking about Jacob deGrom’s chances of winning the Cy Young Award, and put on what he wants.

So what does he like, you ask? Well, let me go Ryan Seacrest-mode on you, and count down the hits!

7. Johny Johny Yes Papa (Parents Version) by Cocomelon a.k.a. HA-HA-HA

 

Coming in at number seven is this song from Cocomelon. Basically, the parents keep getting up in the middle of the night to eat junk food, and then lie about it to each other, even after they’re caught. Eventually, their kids wake up and catch them, so they lie to them, too. They all keep laughing about the dishonesty for some reason. Deception is so hilarious? Anyway,  when KJ starts asking for “HA-HA-HA”, it’s time to press play on this song.

6. Roar By Katy Perry a.k.a Ra-Ra

 

Sliding in at number six is this anthem from Katy Perry. J loves this one, and I legit think that KJ only asks me to play it because it reminds him of his sister. I get that, unlike what’s next, at number five.

5. Baby??

Not gonna lie, KJ will frequently request to hear ‘Baby’, but I have no clue what the heck he wants. I end up random shuffling a Spotify playlist, stopping at songs with ‘baby’ in the title. ‘Baby’ by Justin Bieber, ‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-A-Lot, ‘Baby One More Time’ by Britney Spears etc. Not surprisingly, KJ will continually say no to everything, until he gives up, and asks for something else. Let’s just leave this one here, and keep on keepin’ on up the charts!

 

 

4. Basketball by Lil Bow Wow a.k.a. Ba-ball

Number four is this classic jam (no pun intended) from the artist formerly known as Lil Bow Wow.  Last week, KJ not only wanted to hear it on repeat all the way to daycare, but when I picked him up later, he wanted to hear it on repeat on the way home, too. But really, can you blame him? What one year old child doesn’t love early 2000s NBA references? Oh, nevermind. Let’s see what comes in at number three.

3. Baby Shark by Cocomelon a.k.a. Baby Do-do-do

 

Now this one is a certified banger!  Despite there being a way more viral version of this song, KJ likes this particular one, and this one only. It automatically came on after another Cocomelon video ended, and he was immediately hooked. Truth be told, I had no idea how big a phenomenom Baby Shark was until last week, when I saw Ellen talking about it, on the Ellen Show. Y’all have been doing the goofy shark dance for months now, but no one bothered to fill me in. Thanks, friends. Speaking of viral sensations………

 

In My Feelings By Drake aka Kiki!

Why in the world does a one year old like this Drizzy hit, you ask? I’m guessing it’s because he can say the first lyric (Kiki). Or maybe he just needs a black card and a code to the safe. Maybe he wants me to upload a video of him doing the In My Feelings Challenge. Regardless, this is the one joint here that I don’t mind listening to constantly (clean, radio edited version, of course).   Unlike the number one song on the list.

1. Wheels On the Bus By Cocomelon a.k.a. Bus! Bus!

 

When KJ starts screaming for ‘Bus! Bus!’ then you know it’s about to go down. Cocomelon must have some audio baby hypnosis going on, because he only likes their version of this timeless nursery rhyme, too.  The appeal here are the visuals. Besides a monkey’s naked butt, the video has easy to mimic actions, which KJ does in my car. He’ll give me a big, hokey thumbs up when it comes on, he’ll tell an invisible baby to shush, and so on. No doubt this one is a crowd-pleaser; especially if that crowd doesn’t include me. Nonetheless, its place at the top of the charts is firmly cemented on my drives with KJ.

Until the next countdown, Seacrest…out!

 

 

The Inverted Awkardness Conundrum

I’ve started to observe something with lil KJ.

Something very troubling, that I never experienced with my other kids.

He’s flipping the script on awkwardness!

As he has grown out of babyhood, and is heading towards the terrible twos, he has a knack with putting me in less than ideal situations with strangers.

What?

It’s a real problem, people! Here, lemme give you some examples:

  • Once,  KJ wandered over to a dad and just stared at him for a while, until I took him away. The dad was clearly super uncomfortable, too, and I don’t blame him. It’s like KJ had an awkward radar, and he picked out the person in the room who would get the most squirmy.
  • Sometimes, the radar is off. The person he’s randomly staring at will be OK with it, and then try to make him laugh. Instead of cracking a smile, KJ will continue to glare at them with a cold, hard gaze. Watching a grown person acting goofy, while a toddler looks on at them with the demeanour of a British guard, is as weird as it sounds. I will then have to start chuckling like an idiot, to ease the mood.
  • Speaking of chuckling, KJ has also walked up to strangers, pointed at them, and started laughing. What’s so funny? No clue. He lacks the vocabulary to explain.  All I know is that if I walked up to you, pointed, and laughed in your face, you’d  be justified in breaking my pointy finger and punching me in the face.
  • Speaking of violence, while walking through a park, we saw a father hide behind a statue, jump out, and scare his son, who looked to be about seven or eight years old. The boy proceeded to scream and lose his dang mind. Pure meltdown mode. Having been in public situations involving bad tantrums before, the worst part is when people stop to enjoy the show. You can almost feel them judging you as a parent. Thus, I tried to shoo KJ along and allow the dad to soothe his son in peace. KJ stopped to look, of course, and wouldn’t move. He’ll probably grow up to be the type who slows down to gawk at car wrecks on the highway. Anyway, the boy was holding a balloon during this meltdown. He accidentally lost the grip on it, though, sending it high into the sky.  The dad then noticed us noticing him, so he tried to laugh things off, but the kid went into sicko mode (word to Travis Scott). He yelled that he hated his dad. He hit him hard over and over, like he was trying to knock him out like a light (like a light). To distract KJ and move on from the ugly dispute, I pointed out the flying balloon, which got him to continue on walking. On last glance, the boy stopped hitting the guy, then stormed off in the opposite direction of us.
  • While at one of J’s baseball games, some kid had to use the portable toilet. KJ noticed this, so he went………and sat down outside of it. Worse, he tried to insist that I sit down beside him. He got mad when I picked him up, to take him away. Not sure what his intentions were here. He’s not even potty trained. Maybe he wanted to give them a standing ovation when they came out. Regardless, pretty sure most folks don’t want to see a seated audience when they emerge from a public washroom of any kind.

  • Long story, but I had to take KJ to the emergency room at the hospital recently. He’s fine, don’t worry. While there, however, his energy level somehow changed from lethargic to lit! So lit that he wanted to play Ring Around The Rosey. He’s too small to Fortnite dance, and he doesn’t like most songs, so this is his jam. I can only imagine what the staff there must have thought, listening to us going round and falling down. I’m surprised that they didn’t drug test me. Or escort us out of the building.
  • He took my hat off one time, ran off, and tried to give it away twice, to two different random men. Either he was trying to make some new adult friends by impressing them with his dope, stolen headgear, or he thought these guys had bad hair and needed to cover it up. Not sure. Doesn’t matter.  Anyway, the first dude at least politely declined. The second guy looked like he was considering keeping it, which meant that I had to intervene (awkwardly, of course). It was a nice hat, what can I say.

I could go on, but I think that you get the idea. Until KJ becomes a bit more socially refined, this is my life now. I apologize in advance for any awkward encounters that we may have.

 

Later, y’all.

 

 

 

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