The Judgmental Rookie

Posted 2/16/10 by D-Mac

I’ll never forget the summer after my son Max was born, my ex-wife and I were down at Seaside (which some of you non-New Jersey residents now know as the home of the cultural phenomenon “Jersey Shore”.. but for us born and bred Jersey folk.. Seaside Heights has always been a cultural phenomenon for as long as we can remember).. and as we were walking along the boardwalk, over at the benches facing the ocean, we saw a little girl drop her ice cream cone. Pop quiz hotshot.. now considering that I remember what came out of this girl’s father’s mouth next to this very day, what do you think he said to her?:

(a)    “Don’t worry, honey. We’ll get you another one.”

(b)   “Aww.. it happens. Did any of the ice cream get on you?”

(c)    “Way to go, Allison. Good job.”

(d)   “Alright, we got ourselves a Situation.”

The Situation is that these chicks are like two Ms. Pac Mans and I'm the power pill...

Although answer (d) would have been awesome foreshadowing of the magic that would be taking place at a house less than a hundred yards away a mere seven years later.. the answer here is (c). “Way to go, Allison. Good job.” For some reason, it just stuck out to us as such a completely dick thing to say to a child given that that she just dropped her ice cream..and we both felt horrible for poor little Allison having to live with such a creep for a father.  Of course, “Way to go, Allison. Good job.” managed to become a running joke anytime somebody dropped something in our house for the ensuing years but that’s beside the point.

The thing was though, here we were complete parenting rookies, pushing our car seat on wheels with a baby inside that could only cry, eat, or sleep. So, our reaction to Allison’s father was kind of the equivalent of a teenager watching “The Breakfast Club”. Of course, you’re just going to sit there and think Principal Vernon is a complete ass who is just out to make those kids lives miserable. It’s only until you can watch that movie as a thirty something who is starting to get a sense of the generation gap sneaking up on you that you can start to sympathize with Vernon’s plight, especially during the scene with Vernon and Carl the Janitor in the records room… and the day that you sit there and actually want Vernon to just beat the crap out of Bender when he has him in the supply closet.. then my friend, you can just consider yourself officially an adult… but I digress.

R.I.P. Paul Gleason

The point I am trying to make is this.. it’s so easy to sit there as someone without kids or even as a new parent, playing Monday Morning Quarterback and judging other parents that you see. But the thing that comes to you with parenting experience is the knowledge that it’s impossible to pitch a perfect game when being a Mom or Dad. Kids can go from perfect little angels to, “Holy shit. I can’t believe they just did that and now people are staring at me..” in a heartbeat. With that knowledge comes the realization that when you see a child pitching a fit and their Mom or Dad completely overreacts, you know that you’re just seeing a snapshot of their day and while it’s easy to just throw the “bad parent” label on that person in your mind, you know that there was a whooole sequence of events leading up to that moment. It’s kind of like if somebody just showed you a two second scene of “Pulp Fiction”, only it’s Travolta sitting on the toilet waiting for Bruce Willis to get home.. you might just think, “Wow, I really hope this isn’t the latest “Look Who’s Talking” movie” without even knowing what’s really going on.

How the hell are we going to work a dance number into this one?!

Take Allison for example. Maybe she spilled her juice all over the couch earlier in the morning and the subsequent cleanup caused her parents to leave the house a half hour later than they had wanted to.. causing them to sit in an extra hour’s worth of traffic (anyone going down the Jersey Shore on a weekend morning knows that leaving even fifteen minutes later than anticipated can cost you dearly traffic-wise).. and maybe on the car ride, she dropped a lollipop and got it stuck to the car’s cloth interior.. and then maybe when they finally got to the beach, in addition to having to lug a cooler and beach chairs, Allison decided that the sand was too hot (even though it completely wasn’t) and he was forced to carry her too and look like John Candy walking across the beach in “Summer Rental” minus the Chicago Blackhawks jersey.. and then when they finally got settled on the beach, Allison whined for a good forty five minutes about wanting to be carried back over the not-hot sand to get an ice cream on the boardwalk.. where they had to wait in line for ten minutes.. and then when they were three customers away from the counter, Allison decided she had to go to the bathroom (badly) and he had to get off of line and walk to the public restroom where he had to make a split second decision on whether to take her into the men’s room with him or risking pervert status by announcing his arrival with her into the ladies room.. then had to go back to the Kohr Brother’s ice cream stand where the line was now twice as long as the last time they were there a few minutes ago.. and when they finally got up to the front, even though the whole time, both times that Allison was on line, she was stating that she wanted a vanilla soft serve.. but now when they are getting ready to order, she changes her mind to chocolate.. and a two minute debate ensues, while the customers behind them on line start to get fidgety and he can feel them shooting laser beams into the back of his head.. he and Allison finally decide on a chocolate-vanilla swirl.. which starts melting the second the lady behind the counter hands it to her and he asks the lady for a few extra napkins.. and she only gives him two, as every stand on the boardwalk has an unwritten rule that their employees have to be stingy and treat their napkins like they’re gold plated for some reason.. and as he gets Allison across the boardwalk to the benches, she immediately proceeds to drop the ice cream on the ground..

As this happens, a young couple walks by and hears the Dad exclaim, “Way to go, Allison. Good job.” and just assumes the Dad is a jerk and proceed to use that sentence as an inside joke for years. Maybe we just happened to catch that guy at the exact moment where he let down his calm, cool, collected fatherhood veneer and let the exasperated human being slip out.

Now granted, maybe none of this happened and maybe this guy was just kind of an asshole Dad.. but parenting experience makes it so that the story I just laid out above at least enters your mind as a possibility.. because at one point or another, no matter how great a parent you might be.. hey, we’ve all been there.


9 Responses to “The Judgmental Rookie”

  1. Miami Computer Repair Says:

    I am new to having a child. My sister passed away a 3 months back and because my nephew doesn’t know his real father, he wanted to stay with me. It wasn’t hard to say, yes. He is blood and I love the little guy. I am in search of everything I can locate on the internet about parenting because I want to be the best uncle a kid can have so, thank you for the blog post and now I must move on to the next one.

  2. Dave's ex-wife Says:

    Ha, I remember this. We had been parents for about 5 minutes and were absolutely horrified that this dad was “so mean” to his daughter.

    Congrats on getting the site back up Dave…I’m proud of you.

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  4. free Lance Says:

    I totally agree. That is pretty much how I understand parenting and rushing to judgment. Great!

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