Friday, April 30, 2010


Dear Spike:

Abe Lincoln, you ain't.

Granted, you're a good kid. Better than most, I reckon. And maybe that's why it was so heart-breaking, this week, when I bore witness to your very first lie.

As is our usual morning routine, you started the day with breakfast, and then a Mandarin video. When the show was over, I flipped off the TV and moved you into your play room.When I went to grab a snack for you from the kitchen, I heard the TV buzz back to life.

I came back and gave you my best "not happy with you" stare down.

"It was an accident," you immediately protested.

OK, so you're not a very good liar. And because I want to make sure you don't ever become a good liar, I cracked the whip pretty hard yesterday.

I wasn't mad at you, just disappointed — and a little bit sad. As much as I'd love to think otherwise, I know there will be plenty of other times that you will feel that it is easier to lie to me than to tell me the truth.

And I know you're not going to believe this — I know it might even seem like a lie — but you can always tell me the truth.


I won't always be happy (you were going to be punished for turning the TV on without permission no matter if you lied or not) and sometimes I might even feel a bit mad — but I will never, ever stop loving you.

And that's the truth.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Dear Spike:

I'm sitting by your bedside, hovering over your tiny sleeping body, overwhelmed by your beauty — and terrified by the prospect of waking you up.

You finally passed out, an hour or so ago, after a fit of mad writhing and screaming.

"Milk!" you cried. "Please, please, please give me my milk!!!"

"Nooooooooooo!" you protested when I gave you a sippy cup of milk. "I don't want it! I don't wan't it!"

You tossed the cup halfway across the room.

"Nooooooooooo!" you screamed as it bounced across the floor. "I need my milk."

It went on this way for a good 20 minutes.

You wanted me to kiss your head. And then you screamed and twisted and contorted your body away when I leaned in to do so.

You wanted me to leave the room. And then you wailed and writhed and bonked your head against the wall when I opened to the door to go.

You wanted your stuffed animals. And then you didn't.

You wanted me to tell you a story. And then you didn't.

You wanted me to hold you — and then you punched me in the mouth when I did.

To say the very least, this was unusual behavior for you. Alas, you've thrown an occasional temper tantrum in the past. But nothing like this.

This was something new.

This was something frightening.

It is with great frequency and no small amount of pride that I tell those who ask about "the terrible twos" that you have given us no context with which we might understand that term.

And it is with great frequency — and no small amount of smugness, I think — that these people respond, "ah yes — it really should be called 'the terrible threes.'"

I smile politely and nod. But I don't believe it...

Or, at least, I didn't...

Not until this afternoon. Could this be the dreaded "threes?"

You're beginning to stir, now.

And I'm fighting a rather powerful urge to run for my life.


Monday, April 26, 2010


Dear Spike:

The song, by Beyoncé, is called "Single Ladies." And it goes something like this:

All the single ladies,
All the single ladies,
All the single ladies,
Now put your hands up,
Oh Oh Oh, Oh Oh Oh Oh!

In what I initially thought was pretty damning evidence that I had failed you as a father, you have been dancing around the house, singing this song, all week long.

Thankfully, your mother has spoken to you at length about what this song really means. Now, if someone asks you what a single lady is, you respond:

"A single lady is a woman who is unencumbered by a man."


Monday, April 19, 2010


Dear Spike:

You manners are absolutely charming — "a breath of fresh air," we've been told by no small number of people — and it makes me very proud to see what I polite young lady we've raised.

But this morning, while were at the park, I came to the rather unsettling realization that we may have turned you into a bit of a oddity among your peers.

The first little girl you approached today had her brown hair in pigtails, just like yours. And she looked to be about your age, or perhaps just a few months older. You walked up to her, stretched out your hand and introduced yourself. "Pleased to meet you," you said. "What's your name?"

The little girl's eyes widened and she shot a glance around the playground for her mother.

"Pleased to meet you," you repeated, taking a step closer. "What's your name?"

Without a word, the little girl pushed you away and ran off to find her mom.

Strike One.

The next little girl was a blond-haired kid. She was also just about your age, I think.

"Pleased to meet you," you said, extending your hand. "What's your name?"

When the little girl didn't lift her hand to shake yours, you reached down to show her how. But she yanked her arm away and began backing away.

Undeterred, you followed her. "Would you like to play together?" you asked.

And then she ran.

Strike Two.

I'm sure I could have stepped in to make the recreational arrangements with either girl's parent, but I try my best to mind my own business when we're in your world. I figure that it's my job to get you ready to make friends — and your job to actually make things happen.

You didn't seem particularly bothered by what had happened, but I was a bit heartbroken — particularly as I watched you play alone for the next few minutes. Every now and then I saw you looking up at where the two girls were playing — together — on the other side of the playground. They'd connected, I recognized, when the blond girl gruffly ordered the brunette to follow her up the stairs to the slide.

I guess that's how it's done.

The next girl was a redhead, with curly lockes like Little Orphan Annie. Absolutely darling. She was easily a head taller than you, but I'm guessing she was about a year your junior.

"Pleased to meet you," you said, extending a hand once again. "What's your name?"

She didn't reach out to shake your hand. And she didn't share her name. But she didn't run away, either, and the two of you followed one another around for the next five minutes, or so, until she decided to run off to play with some other kids, leaving you to play alone once again.

It wasn't strike three, but it wasn't a home run either. And, I suppose, most things in life are that way.

I'm not sure what benefit you'll derive from being Miss Manners — on the playground or in life — but just the same, I'm glad you're such a polite young lady.

Being proper, respectful and kind might make you a bit odd, but the people who really matter won't mind. I promise.


Friday, April 9, 2010


Dear Spike:

I'm guessing I was doing 30 or 35 miles an hour down a steep, well-packed run when my snowboard caught an edge and flipped me onto the back of my head.

Why do I insist that you wear a helmet?

That's why.


Saturday, April 3, 2010


Dear Spike:

We were watching "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe," this evening with your grandparents. During the scene in which the forces of Aslan confront the force of the White Witch, you turn to me with a look of confusion.

"What are they doing?" you asked.

"They are preparing for battle," I explained.

"They're going to fight?"


"But that's not good," you said. "They need to learn to use their words."

Somewhere, C.S. Lewis is smiling.

And so am I.


Thursday, April 1, 2010


Dear Spike:

You were excited. And that excited me.

After all, I’ve been longing to share this pastime with you for as long as you’ve been around. But until recently, I was under the impression that your snowboarding career would have to wait a few years.

Earlier this winter, however, I shared a lift with a man who had recently taken his three-year-old daughter on her first ski outing. “She did great,” he told me. “You can’t push them at that age, of course, but if you offer it to them and they want to do it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t.”

I made a calendar in my head and drew a little circle around Dec. 21, 2010 — the first day of next winter. That, I thought, would be the day you met the slopes.

But then, on what I thought would be my last day on the mountain for this season, I ran into a kid who was trying to unload a couple of passes. I scored two for $25 — the deal of the century.

But between work and school and everything else that life’s been throwing my way, lately, I only had time to use one before Spring arrived. And although you often can ski through June at some of Utah’s resorts, it’s not particularly good skiing.

So when winter took a few parting shots at us, this week, I felt compelled to use up my last pass. But at the same time, having just returned from a business trip, I wanted to spend some quality time with you.

And thus a plan was born. Why wait to turn three? Why not just get started now?

“Spike,” I said, “would you like to go snowboarding with daddy?”

“Yeah!” you answered, and you jumped to your feet. “Let’s go!”

Such enthusiasm. That’s daddy’s girl. We threw on our snow clothes, wiggled into the car and headed up Big Cottonwood Canyon.

Less than an hour later, you were set up with boots, bindings and an adorable little purple snowboard. And we were ready to hit the bunny slopes.

But first things first: Safety.

“OK, let’s just slide on this helmet,” I said.

“Noooooo!” you screamed. “No helmet! No helmet!”

I’m not sure what it was about the helmet I offered you, but something had freaked you out pretty good. You cried and sobbed and begged me not to make you wear the helmet. And even when I showed you that other kids were wearing their helmets, you wouldn’t budge. “When I am older I can wear a helmet,” you said. “But not right now.”

I didn’t understand your logic. But it didn’t really matter. I couldn’t get you into that helmet, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to hop on the chairlift without making sure you’re precious little brain was protected.

Finally, I explained to you that we would have to go if you didn’t wear your protective equipment. And you agreed that was a very good idea.

As we headed back to the ski shop, I asked if you would like to try out your snowboard, sans helmet, just on the flat areas near the lodge. You accepted.

I was hoping that, after sliding around for a bit, you’d be willing to put the helmet so that you could keep going.

No such luck. You were fine with the idea of sliding down the hills. You just wanted to make sure your head was free while you were doing it.

And so it was that, for several hours, I carried you up a very small hill near the parking lot and then ran alongside of you, holding your hands, as you slid back down.

Up and down. And up and down. And up and down we went. You were having the time of your life. And I was gasping for breath.

To be certain, this is not the way I had envisioned your first snowboarding outing would go. But the truth is, when you’re parenting, nothing ever goes according to plan. When you try to push your children to hard, too fast, sometimes they push back. And when they do, it’s not always in ways that you might expect.

And so you've got to stay flexible.

I’m still not sure what your problem is with wearing a helmet. But, by God, when we do hit the slopes next year, you’re not going to win this battle. You will wear a helmet, or you’ll be confined to the hill next to the parking lot.

But nonetheless, I’m proud of you. You looked good on that board. And I’ll bet you’ll look even better next year — or whenever you’re ready.