Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Swim Lessons 2016

When we were in Mexico, I had to fish Luca out of the pool twice for fear he was drowning, despite his insistence that gulping for air and flailing was simply his preferred swim stroke. Diana and I decided if we were going to ever enjoy trashy novels in future vacations, he had to get back into swim lessons.

I’ve said this before, but Luca is a Hamann through and through. Which means he is crippled by anxiety at anything new. To diffuse any potential nervousness, I decided to make things 100 times worse by saying “It’s ok to be scared about swim lessons” over and over on the drive to the pool. I even did him the favor of snapping at Elijah when he tried to add his support.

By the time we entered the pool area, Luca was in tears. His instructor and classmates beaconed him into the pool. To his eyes, they were demons demanding he dive into a vat of acid and rusty nails.

Luca buried his face into my stomach and sobbed. I, being a deranged lunatic, told him he had to learn how to swim or he would die.

A friendly coach of indeterminate age came by and gently knelt down to Luca’s level. He whispered something to him, which I assume was, “Hey. I had a jerkface for a father too. Why don’t we get away from this idiot?”

Luca took his hand and they simply sat at the pool’s edge for a while. Luca listened intently, sometimes shaking his head “no” at the occasional question. After a few minutes, the coach led Luca into the pool and they practiced a few strokes. Very shortly after, Luca rejoined his class and was chatting and laughing like his panic attack had never happened.

After class, I looked around for the coach. Not because I wanted to thank him, but because I wanted to avoid any human contact with him. But he was gone, like a superhero off to save another young child from parental stupidity.

In the days since, Luca has been chattering away at how much he likes swim lessons and how he can’t wait to go this Saturday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Maybe Bully

There are two things in life that make me furious: Leaving the front door open when it’s minus two degrees out (Elijah!) and bullies.

I have no patience for them. I don’t care if you secretly are a sad little guy on the inside or if you have trouble at home. If you try to intimidate my sons, you will get a scowling of a lifetime. Oh, and I’ll scowl your parents too.  I’ll scowl them big time.

We’ve been a pretty bully free zone of late. Eli’s nemesis lost a lot of his powers due to an unfortunate pipsqueakness issue. It’s hard to be intimidating when you have to get on your tiptoes to reach the drinking fountain.

Imagine my disappointment to overhear Luca describing his own bully to Diana. What? No. Not Luca. Luca doesn’t get a bully. We already covered this in HamannEggs.

According to Luca, there is a boy who pushes him down at lunchtime. And who says things like, “I hate you.” And, “You are a stupid head.”

My immediate response was so very dad-like I couldn’t believe it came from my mouth. “Punch him in the nose. That’s what we Hamanns call ‘The Bully Cure.’”

No we don’t.

Diana had a much more subtle approach befitting a women who believes in non violence for everyone but Donald Trump. “Next time he’s mean to you, say, “Hi. Can we be friends?” Or, “Please don’t push me. That makes me upset.”

That’s where things got a little fishy. Every time we offered a solution, Luca claimed to have already tried it and failed. He already said the exact words “Hi. Can we be friends” and “Please don’t push me, that makes me upset.” He already told his teachers. He already befriended a Karate Master, learned Karate, entered a Karate tournament and used the Crane Kick to defeat him.

I asked Luca if maybe his bully was imaginary. A bully who lived in Lucaland who is part robot, part squid and works nights at the Death Star. But Luca insisted this nameless bully was real.

Last night while we were eating takeout, I asked Luca for an update on the bully. He looked at me blankly. Bully? Bully who? What’s a bully?

I reminded him of the pushing tormentor.

“Oh. I think he moved away. Yeah. I heard his mommy tell him, ‘You are going to a new school tomorrow.’”

Either way I don’t have to unsheathe my scowl.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I “Forced” Him To Like Star Wars. Get It?

As I sit in my super Star Destroyer, clad in my black hood, I marvel at how easy it was luring my sons to loving Star Wars. Yes, their mother resisted the Dark Side, but she proved powerless against this inevitability. Muahahahaha!

Truth be told, I really never got my Star Wars claws into Elijah, despite forcing him to watch some pretty graphically violent movies at the age of four. While he appreciates them, mostly out of pity for his father, he doesn’t have the unhealthy obsession I was hoping for. He’s lacking that true nerd gene that pushes out thoughts of girls and music and social interaction for people dressed in rubber suits. I usually lose him after two minutes debating which Empire Strikes Back bounty hunter was probably the best kisser (Bossk).

Which brings me to Luca. The poor child who inherited much more than my bow-leggedness. Luca spends every waking hour thinking about Star Wars. Drawing Star Wars. Playing Star Wars. Asking me about Star Wars. But oddly, hardly ever watching Star Wars.

Such obsessiveness would give a normal parent pause. But I simply rub my hands wickedly while exclaiming, “Yes! Yes!”

Every night, Luca refuses to sleep unless I tell him an elaborate Star Wars story casting he and I as light saber wielding Jedi Knights. I try to keep the stories focued on good versus evil and truth and justice. Luca, on the other hand, wants to keep the “War” in Star Wars.

“And then the heroic Jedi Knights, Luca and Rick, heroically faced the armies of the Galactic Empire…”

“And shot them in the face!”

Whoa whoa whoa, let’s tighten the reins on that Tauntaun, buddy. Shooting in the face talk does not work in a house where the mommy is a member of four separate anti-gun groups. I tell him guns are bad. This is all pretend. Good guys don’t kill. And never, ever let your mom watch you play Star Wars Battlefront on Xbox.

Luca always nods in agreement and understands the difference between right and wrong.

Okay back to it.

“And then Jedi Knight Rick swings his light saber, which is slightly longer than Luca’s light saber, and…”

“Slices a guy’s arm off!”

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Mystery Of the Green Goo

Diana and I have a very strict rule against playing on screens during school nights.  No screens during the week. Ever. Unless Diana is tired. Or I’m working late. Or we want to watch “Making a Murderer.” Or we want to eat in peace. Or you ask nicely. Or you are a child named Elijah or Luca.

Yeah, we are weak sauce.

So imagine our horror when the family Mac went down for the count. Dead. Gone. Black screen that no amount of control/option/esc could revive.

How would Diana post anti gun messages on Facebook? How would Eli watch that Youtube family who is exactly like our family? How would Luca do the things that he does on the internet? How would I be able to check,, and It’ at the same time?

Diana took the dead computer to our local Evanston bespoke computer repair artisans. After a quick look, they called with the culprit. The insides of our Mac were “Coated with a sticky green goo. As if someone recently poured a green liquid over it.” Makes sense.

The cost to repair the goo equated to purchasing a new computer, plus a backup computer, plus the GNP of Legoland.

I was mildly frustrated. And felt the only way this mild frustration feeling could go away would be to find the child responsible and destroy them.

I sat them down and told them the lie that they wouldn’t get in trouble if they admitted to it. I simply wanted to know. You know, for research purposes only.

Would you believe that neither Elijah nor Luca has ever consumed a green liquid in their life? No sir. They couldn’t even commit to ever consuming any kind of liquid. Green or otherwise. Oh, no. I don’t drink. Drinking is for suckers.

And even more delightfully, they would secretly roll over on each other when alone.

“You know, Mom. I distinctly saw Luca waving a green smoothie over your keyboard. He was saying something like, ‘That’ll show her.’”

 “Mom. You know who likes green goo? Eli. Why I believe he is web manager for a green goo fan site on the internet.”

But my favorite is how they felt the need to deflect attention onto Schuyler, their babysitter.

“Mom. Mom. I don’t want to get Schuyler in trouble, but she does drink a lot of green tea from Dunkin Donuts. And she hates you.”

So the chances we will find the truth are low. In the end, we fixed the computer and but a moratorium on ever, ever, ever touching it again. Unless Diana is tired.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Tragic Barfs

When did you realize your parents weren’t superhuman? When did they fall from grace? When did their god-like powers dull into yellow armpit stains and human insecurities?

It’s one of the great tragedies of childhood. It’s a moment that pays for psychiatrists’ kids’ tuitions and I’m fairly sure is the basis for movies like “Field of Dreams” and Spike Lee’s “He Got Game.” Thanks Google!

It doesn’t dawn on most people until adulthood. For Elijah and Luca, it occurred Saturday at 4:35pm, 25,000 feet over Puerto Vallarta. When they saw me barf into my vintage Bears hat.

Granted, they should have seen it coming. I tend to barf at least once every beach related vacation. Could’ve been the heat, could’ve been the sun, could’ve been the seafood paella that had been sitting out in the sun and heat.

I know, I know, a lot of you are making that “glug glug” pantomime. But I am on my yearly break from alcohol, so shove it.

I hadn’t been feeling well all day, but I was determined not to spend another moment in that beautiful, friendly, all-inclusive hell-hole. The flight was only 3.5 hours. I could make it, right?

Diana, Luca and Eli occupied the three seats across from me and they were all plugged into their devices when God whispered, “Welcome to the worst day of your life,” into my ear.

Plunk went my stomach and I turned to the back of the plane. My way was blocked by the drink cart.

I immediately regressed to 6 years old and instinct was “Mommy! I need mommy!” I reached across to Diana urgently and made the international sign for “I am barfing now.”

Activity across the aisle slipped into super slow mo as she reached for the barf bag. My only option was to heave into my hat. My favorite Bears hat. Eli and Luca looked on in horror. Their expressions said, “There goes the last lingering respect I have for that man.”

I raced to the back of the plane and told the flight attendant, “I had a widdle accident.” He gave me a club soda and offered the jump seat next to the lavatory. As I sat there, listening to the judging thoughts of the other passengers (“Drunk…Paella eater…”) I wondered if I could open the aft door and leap out of the plane without causing a crash.

Eventually, I crawled back to my seat, or rather my new seat between Diana and Luca. Elijah, who was the man now, sat in my old seat to calm the other passengers. He repeated over and over, “I’m sorry you barfed, father.” Luca simply patted my shoulder in a pitying way.

Later, both boys made sure everyone from the customs agent to our cab driver to the cashier at Wendy’s knew I recently barfed and needed special attention.

I felt much better the next day, but I could tell the boys weren’t convinced. They kept a Bears hat at the ready.