Collage of family opening presents.

1. CHANNEL SANTA CLAUS. Even though my kids have long since stopped believing in the man in the red suit, they still insist we can’t put any presents under the tree until after they go to bed on Christmas Eve. When I tell them it would be easier on their mother and me if we did, they protest, “But it wouldn’t feel like Christmas.” I guess it’s a testament to my wife’s and my dedication to being good parents that we oblige them, even though our middle-aged backs don’t relish the prospects of carrying loads of boxes up from the basement at midnight. My one demand for granting this wish is that the kids put out some milk and cookies for Santa. My always health-conscious wife advises the girls that “Santa only needs one cookie,” but I insist the girls put more than a few on the plate. Santa’s reindeer need a few treats to reward them for their efforts, too!

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Family hanging ornaments on Christmas tree.

1. BULB CONFUSION. Every year, at this time of year, I remember that I forgot to follow through on the vow I made to myself the year before: take a quickie electronics course before Christmastime arrives so I won’t have to waste hours trying to figure out how to get all the bulbs on our tree to light up.

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Daughter decorated her dad's car in pink.

1. UNCOMFORTABLE MAKEOVER. Since my oldest is ready to get her license, I made a serious mistake – deciding to share my car with her, given that I rarely use it during the week. Somehow she read “share” as own, so she gave the car’s interior a makeover. Now there are hot pink covers on the steering wheel and rearview mirror, and pink dice dangling from the mirror, which she hung because “they’re so tacky, they’re ironic.” On weekends when it’s my turn to “share” the car, I drive it wearing the same gear celebrities in disguise do — sunglasses and a baseball cap pulled as low as it can go — and I always keep a vigilant eye out for cars filled with my daughters’ friends. If I pulled up alongside one of those, it probably wouldn’t take long for a picture of me driving the teen-girl mobile to show up on some social media site. Those dreaded paparazzi are everywhere!

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Ice skating at a rink.

1. ROLLER DERBY ON ICE. From afar, the outdoor ice rink where my daughters and I go to skate can look like something out of a Currier and Ives card – people of all ages bundled up in coats, hats and mittens, having fun across the frozen surface, while onlookers lean on the walls of the rink, sipping steaming hot chocolates. Once you’re on the ice, though, it can feel like you’ve been dropped into a scene from the movie Slapshot …. (more)

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Family as turkeys, caricature illustration

1. RELIABLE SOURCES. Per usual this Thanksgiving, I have lots to be grateful for – all thanks to the three wonderful ladies who share a house with me. My wife provides a Rock of Gibraltar-esque level of support and can always helpfully explain to me the emotions behind every interaction I have with a friend or colleague. My eldest, with her harmless teasing of her old man, always has me laughing, while she also keeps me “au courant” on all the latest fashion and pop culture trends. My youngest’s ever-calm and cool demeanor is an inspiration to me, while her brilliantly articulated explanations of how the physical world works leave me continuously fascinated. I’m not sure how I managed to get through my days before they came into my life.

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Yes, I know having a child with a curious mind is a gift, and not just a responsibility, yes, I know, a gift!!

1. SORTA PERFECT. Our youngest daughter is one of those rare kids who, after asking for a telescope for Christmas, regularly used it as more than a coat rack. On a recent night, she asked me and my wife to join her on one of her astronomy expeditions. I thought it was a little nippy for stargazing but she and my wife convinced me to “have some fun,” so we ventured away from our-tree lined yard to the hill of a nearby cemetery for a better, unobstructed view of the sky. While my daughter fiddled for quite a long while, adjusting her focus, I kicked my feet to keep warm, and worried about our decision to bring our Yorkie past the “no dogs allowed” sign at the cemetery’s gate. Once she had her equipment focused, my daughter asked me to take a quick look. She had the scope trained on the moon, and all I saw was a slightly magnified version of the gray and white swirls I could see with the naked eye, but of course I told her, “Wow, cool.” When she took over, she exclaimed, “The Langrenus Crater and the Sea of Fertility are so clear, it’s amazing.” She looked ready to boil over, she was so excited. My wife, who had wisely wrapped much warmer than I, grinned to let me know this was one of those rare moments of parenting perfection that you had to fully savor, so I did, I really did for a full 10 seconds before another cool breeze made my shoulders shudder. Then I made what seemed a perfectly reasonable suggestion, “Hey, maybe it’s time to pack up and head back to where it’s warm.”

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Father in cargo shorts with a fanny pack.

1. KANGAROO WEAR. Sometimes I carry a lot more gear than my pants have pockets for — not just the standards of keys, wallet and cell phone, but also prescription sunglasses, the current book that I might be reading, and an old iPod now that my iPhone storage has all been used up (amazing how quickly 16 gigabytes goes, isn’t it?) I have not yet found the perfect solution for transporting all this equipment “on my person” — though the search is critical given how costly it is to replace most of those items. My wife bought me a man purse, which I felt confidently metrosexual enough to try for a while, but it felt too cumbersome and too susceptible to the same risk we’ve faced with my wife’s (leaving it on the back of a restaurant chair). On a recent Saturday, when my family planned to head off for a day trip to Newport, Rhode Island, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant, multi-pocket solution — cargo pants and a fanny pack. But when my fashion-conscious oldest saw me in that get up, she was aghast and told me, “Dad, if you leave the house looking like that, I refuse to be seen with you.” Of course, I didn’t heed that warning. So that afternoon as we strolled the shops on Thames Street, she kept 10 paces behind me, which spared me from hearing requests like, “Dad, can I have 10 bucks to get one of those specialty cupcakes?” or “Dad, can I have 20 bucks because I just saw the most amazing earrings in that shop window?” So, all in all, donning my fashionista-repellent wear worked out perfectly for one of us.

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Family collage and celebrities who resemble each family member

1. APPROPRIATE CASTING. My family hasn’t done anything noteworthy enough for our lives to be made into a Hollywood movie (at least not yet!). Still, one afternoon, we decided to play the fun game of figuring out who would play each of us if we did. My kids decided the beautiful Ashley Judd could play their mom. We all agreed Jennifer Lawrence, with her sassiness and fun-loving spirit, was the ideal match for our oldest daughter, while the actress who plays the middle child on Modern Family would be perfectly suited for our beautiful and brilliant youngest. Surprisingly, my wife and daughters struggled to come up with a candidate for me, so I threw out a suggestion – George Clooney. That caused my eldest to let out a whooping laugh. When I asked why, she quickly recovered and told me, “He’s not handsome enough.” That one has a great future as a politician.

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Father misses when his daughters trick or treated.

1. TOUGH HOLIDAY TRANSITIONS. I’m not sure what was harder – Christmases after I stopped believing in Santa, or Halloweens after my kids’ stopped dressing up and trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. Probably the latter. And yes, it’s true, they still sometimes go to costume parties around this time of year, but when they head off to their friends’ homes for those, I don’t get to hold their hands leading them up to the house, reassure them if any other kids are wearing particularly scary get-ups, or most importantly (for me) get to steal any of the Reese’s peanut-butter cups or Butterfingers (my faves!), they might get as loot. But I realize my opportunities for such joy have not been completely lost. So yes, even though my daughters are still only in high school, I’m putting out the advance warning now to their future husbands, whoever they may be, so that they will have plenty of time to get used to the idea: Your kids’ maternal grandpa will be honing in on your chaperoning trick-or-treaters responsibilities!

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Dad uses one shampoo, daughters many.

1. NARROWER PRODUCT SET. To wash my hair every morning, all I need is one brand of shampoo. But the shower rack my daughters use is stocked with one that promises “radiant color,” another that delivers “nutritive solutions,” and yet another that produces “luscious volume.” And that’s just the shampoos. Right alongside them are an equal variety of conditioners that provide “hair therapy,” “daily moisture,” and “multi-task repairs.” The females in my house clearly don’t use all of them at once, but I don’t know how they choose which ones to one apply on any given day. Maybe they like being able to go wherever their moods take them on a particular morning, or perhaps they have a defined system for cycling through all those options over the course of a week. All I know is that I’d be overwhelmed by that many choices. But perhaps I should be more open-minded and stock my medicine cabinet with a variety of shaving creams and gels that so I could have the option for “sensitive skin treatment” on one day,” “soothing aloe” on the next, and on the day after that, “extra moisturizing.” Sounds like a whole world of possibility opening up, followed immediately by the “whoosh” of a door shutting. Why? Because I know that is never going to happen.

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