1. PLUGGED UP. When I attend rock concerts, I’m mindful of the importance of protecting my ears, so I bring foam plugs. When I have to take my daughters to boy band concerts, I double up.
2. UNSUPERVISED ACCESS. I didn’t need to know that my oldest can’t wait until her 17th birthday because it means she’ll be able to get into R-rated movies without my permission.
3. UNWANTED MISSION. Another reason to envy my father who never changed a diaper: he also never had to make a drugstore run for feminine hygiene products. (Tip for wives and daughters: be very specific about what you want. The variety of options on the shelves is a little overwhelming to non-users of the products.)
4. MAN TALK. Excessive use of the baby voice must be a trait that’s only implanted on the XX chromosome. There are no babies in my house, but all the females in residence here regularly address our male Yorkie in the following manner: “Look at you, Jakey, wakey, aren’t you the cutest little petootie?” I never speak to the dog in this fashion. He may go into a tail-wagging paroxysm when they address him this way, but I suspect the maleness in him appreciates my restraint.
5. STORY INTERVENTION. My family and I realized one of our daughters desperately needed an intervention (to protect her, I won’t divulge which one). We’d let a certain behavior go on for too long, but finally after years of looking the other way, we needed to help her. She simply had to stop … telling stories that had neither a clear point nor a foreseeable end. So we sat her down at the family table one evening and let her know we loved her, but she needed to hear some hard truths. My non-offending daughter lead things off by giving it to her straight: “Listen, sweetie, anecdotes from your day really shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to tell.” My wife got right to the heart of the matter, too. “Honey, I’m begging you to realize that every story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end.” I wanted to be compassionate, but I couldn’t hold back what I knew she needed to hear: “You have to stop beginning every sentence of a report from your daily activities with ‘And then.’” She was shocked at first, but she gradually seemed to accept that it was time to turn her storytelling life around. And for a few days, she appeared to be making real progress. But then the family took a long car ride, and she launched into another one of her interminable anecdotes. The rest of us had to accept that she may occasionally fall off the wagon, but with our love and support she might be able to stay on the road to a full recovery.