June Newsletter
   June 30, 2013         |    Santa Barbara, California                 

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My 9 year old son, born uncomfortably close to Christmas, got to celebrate his half birthday this month by doing anything he wanted all day long.  

Yes, you heard that right.  

Within reason, and the law, of course (cigarettes, booze and Papa’s happy prescription pills were off the table), our deal was he would get to do whatever he wanted for one entire day.  With his growing awareness that the monsoon season of Birthday and Christmas presents is only once during the entire year, we took pity on him.  We offered to celebrate a half birthday in June.  I don’t remember who suggested it (probably him), but my wife and I decided to let this one day out of the entire year be one in which we don’t tell him what to do.  No chores, no sunscreen, and total freedom to do and eat whatever he wants.

Hindsight being 20-20, we probably should have Googled this enlightened parenting notion beforehand…

The day before, my suddenly prescriptive (i.e. “bossy”) son clearly instructed me to make the necessary purchases at the grocery store.  I did as I was told.  I had to chuckle a bit inwardly about how all of this was going to play out.  After years of raising him on a healthy diet and restricting access to TV and video games, we were fully prepared for the binge.  As parents, my wife and I were feeling a little smug as we noted fridge, freezer and pantry appropriately stocked with contraband and batteries charged on all mobile devices.  We winked often and early at each other on Friday night.  We were ready for the half birthday binge to fail with “natural consequences.”  

Advanced Parenting 101.  We've been to workshops and read a few books.

Said hallowed Saturday began at 5:49 a.m. with chocolate ice cream for breakfast followed by (in order): a sugary cereal, sour hard candy, some brown rice (?), mint chip ice cream, fig bars, granola bars, Hansen’s Juice Squeeze, TJ’s Mango Sorbet and Buddha knows what else.  We believe there was probably more we didn’t know about.  We’ve since found strange archeological remains of old Halloween candy wrappers in unused corners of the house.  We’re theorizing he didn’t entirely trust our amnesty offering and by force of habit may have accessed unmarked chocolate bars and other off-limits treats.  Our best estimate is it was something on the order of a 10,000 calorie day with at least 9,659 calories coming from sugar and milk fat.  

In addition to consuming enough calories to feed a family of 4 with 2 large dogs and a goat, he somehow managed to see about 9 hours of TV before noon.  I’m still puzzling the math on this one since there were only 6 hours prior to noon on this day, but I believe multiple screens were involved.  At one point we witnessed a Harry Potter DVD on the iMac, “Phineas and Ferb,” on the TV,  “America’s Funniest Home Videos” on his iPod Touch, and MineCraft running all day on the Kindle Fire HD.   

A growing unease began to infect our parental confidence.  

As we were not allowed to ask him to do anything, my wife and I spent the entire day picking up after him (even more than usual). I was starting to regret we hadn’t written a few more clauses into this contract.  The few times, I looked in on him, he was lying on the floor next to empty ice cream quarts, patting his tiny belly like a degenerate Roman emperor while sounds and video came from at least 3 different devices.  

The Lost Weekend, that's what it was.

By 3pm I was a complete wreck.  This was already one of the longest days I could remember in recent history and I still couldn’t tell if I was just annoyed at my little debauched sloth, or simply, completely jealous.  

Our quiet agenda had resoundingly backfired.  We’d unconditionally failed as parents. We were so sure he’d feel awful and eventually come to us later in the day with an aching belly and spirals in his eyeballs having learned a lesson about excess.

Never happened.

Our last ditch hope was that he’d awaken on Sunday having slept poorly, sick to his stomach and unable to function.  That didn’t happen either.  In fact, the whole day appeared to have zero deleterious effects on him.  Nothing. 

I’m certain we’ve created a monster and that the parents of other kids he will now most certainly share this experience with will glare at us the next time we beg them for a playdate.

Kid:  1   Parents:  0

At Mick’s Macs, parenting tips are free all summer.

All the best,