Austria

I live in Austria. It’s this little country in Europe, which is a different continent from North America.

The country is about the size of Illinois, which is actually where I’m from. Austria’s largest city is Vienna, with a population of about 2 million people. This is where I live with my wife, daughter, and two sons.

People ask about the weather. It’s like the Midwest, except not so shitty cold in the winter and not so dripping hot in the summer. Average number of sunny days November-February: 0.12. The rest of the year is fine. It’s good for growing grapes.

The official language is German, with pockets of Croatian, Hungarian, and Slovenian. It’s 90% Catholic or so, with most people not attending church. The other 10% are atheists and Muslims, made up chiefly of a sizable migrant worker population from Turkey.

Mozart

Vienna is home to the United Nations and OPEC. One of my neighbors works there. He says don’t fucking ask him about oil prices.

There are lots of good things coming out of Austria today, such as wine, food, ski resorts and health spas, so if you come here, try to ignore the fact that it was part of the Third Reich about sixty years ago. That will score you some points.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Austria. So was Falco and Mozart. Beethoven was not, although he did live here for many years. Hitler was from Austria as well, but don’t tell anyone about it. They prefer to have the unknowing think that he was from Bavaria.

People always ask me what it’s like living in Austria, and to be honest, I haven’t the faintest.

Seriously, I never know how to answer that.

‘It’s European. Vienna is a majestic, beautiful city that’s compact at the same time, so you can see pretty much everything in a few hours of walking.’

Horse Carriage

‘It’s socialist, which means that you can’t fall through the cracks. Taxes are high, but so is the standard of living, and poverty as people might know it in the United States is virtually nonexistent.’

‘The wine is awesome. The beer is awesome. Schnitzel is basically just fried pork, but fried pork of any sort is awesome, too.’

‘Public urination is legal. So is prostitution.’

‘It’s so fucking on the down-low that you can have beer at lunch and go back to work and no one cares. In certain settings, it’s expected.’

The Alps

Really. I used to live in Chicago, and I never knew what to say when people asked me what it was like to live there.

So Austria kicks ass. I first learned to love it, then to hate it, then to really fucking hate it, and now we have declared a truce. You will find tatters of that white flag pasted all over this site.

Feel free to ask me about it. I’m much better at answering simple, direct questions.

Coffee

Unwittingly, I was doomed by genetics to be hard hit by the parenting game. Due to a DNA mix-up, from the point of conception, I was not equipped to deal with being a father unless I was under the influence of stimulants. I blame this on my mother.

My wife, on the other hand, a morning person, was primed for having children. She always went to bed at a reasonable time–more reasonable then than now, actually–and she always made sure to catch a nap in the afternoon whenever she could. When I first met her, she rarely drank coffee, and though she had a drip machine, she didn’t know how to use it.

I found that quaint. At least I was able to teach her how to do something in the kitchen. Btw, I will start trading this week so I think its a good idea to buy the best day trading books today.

What about me? Ha. How do I put this? Late to bed late to rise? To say the least. Some people drink two or three cups of coffee a day? I’ve been known to drink two or three pots a day. Afternoon naps for me meant that if I accidentally fell asleep on the couch, I would wake up with a nasty headache, poor digestion and the vague notion that it was Tuesday when in reality it was Wednesday. The only way I could catch a decent night’s sleep was to fall asleep at my normal time–after midnight–and not be disturbed by anything until at least ten in the morning. And the only way I could get a decent day’s work done was by drugging myself awake with caffeine and nicotine.

To make matters worse, once I was awake–no matter when I was awakened–I couldn’t get back to sleep. This may sound like a contradiction to what I just described above, but hey, we’re like that aren’t we?

You can imagine what this meant when my daughter woke me up for the first time at 2 A.M. After rocking and cuddling her for an hour, she went to sleep. I put her back into her crib, took five minutes to pull my trapped arm out from beneath her head, and went and made a pot of coffee. And thus began my downfall.

If this sounds at all familiar, read on. I have some important news that might save your life.

Coffee is not good for you. It does not help you do anything. The only reason it’s OK to drink coffee is that cigarette smoking makes you a pariah, if you live in the United States, where society has only decided to change stimulants. Trust me. Forty, fifty years from now coffee will go the way of the cigarette. They’ll do a bunch of research, most of it conducted at first by the coffee grower’s associations, and then some independent body will figure out that coffee causes anti-immune disorders, and then everyone will be suing Juan Valdez because he made it seem as if it were OK to drink coffee.

If you do any amount of research on coffee, you will discover that you could basically say anything about it–whether positive or negative–and then find a study or a statement by a doctor or some other scientific person to back it up. So I am going to give you the lowdown on why I think coffee is your enemy, if you are trying to parent a child while under its influence. Don’t ask me for research. I do research, but I don’t flaunt it, ok?

Coffee robs you of your stamina.

When you have kids, you just can’t be impatient. IF you care, of course. Because kids can be the most annoying thing to ever cross your tired strung-out path: you can’t hit them, you can’t yell at them (too much), you can’t reason with them (as long as they’re under 35 years of age), and you can’t really leave them, at least not for extended periods of time, until they’re 18 or so, when you’re no longer legally responsible for them. My daughter is six years old, and it still takes ten minutes to get her shoes on in the morning. Impatience does not help with this at all. No matter of imploding or exploding will help. You need stamina, and contrary to what you might think, coffee takes that away.

Do I know parents who aren’t impatient with their kids? Sure I do, and I hate them. Pleasantly grumpy is somewhere between angelic bliss and a pot before leaving the house. I prefer that.

Coffee makes non-linear thinking impossible.

It’s great if you have to work late, or early, or study, or whatever, and you have to concentrate on doing one single thing. That one single thing may consist of a plethora of details, it may involve zillions of steps and the knowledge contained in several different higher degrees, but it is still one single thing. When you become a parent, you will never do one single thing during one parcel of time ever again. Ever. People who tell you they’re going to take a year off to finish their dissertation and watch the kids are fooling themselves, and you, if you or they believe it. It is simply impossible. Why? Because in order to do something like that you have to be able to concentrate on one single thing during one parcel of time.

This is what is called linear thinking. What is required is non-linear thinking.

What do I mean by this? When you have children, you are constantly distracted. It’s not the same as multitasking, which actually involves a series of items requiring linear thinking. Multitasking is when you perform several tasks at once, jumping from one to the next without first finishing one before you get to the next one. The reason it’s not the same is because with multitasking, or at least the way that I multitask at work, for the most part the multitasker is in control. You can regulate how much time you spend on each task before moving on to the next one. You can determine for yourself which one you are going to do first, and which one you are going to do second, etc.

With kids you don’t have that choice. You may have five things to do around the house — pay a bill, fill the dishwasher, clean up the bloody footprints–but once a child comes into the picture you have to stop, right then, and assist the child, before going back to what you were doing before. Coffee throws a monkey wrench into the whole works, because the more coffee you drink the more likely you are to be trying to focus on one specific task. Or you have task 1, task 2, task 3, etc., and you don’t want to deviate from that sequence because you know if you do you will forget something.

Kids don’t care if your hands are all bloody. They want a grilled cheese. They just fell down the stairs. They need help wiping. You have to get up off the floor, do a perfunctory hand clean, and assist that child. Then you find when you return to the task you’ve completely forgotten steps 2-5 in the sequence. This is why everything in my home is half-finished.

Why the big deal about the coffee? Your chances of getting irritable and impatient with one of your children, or your spouse, while intoxicated on caffeine skyrocket when you’ve had too much. You have to be able to flow, moving with the driftwood, around or up and over the rocks depending not upon your own mettle but on the nature of the stream itself. You have to turn and smile, change a diaper, wash your hands, go polish your shoes, stop in the middle, wash hands again, get a glass of juice, put another few plates in the dishwasher, all of that. Without screaming your head off. It’s not so much that it’s damaging to your children or your own soul. It’s just that it doesn’t change anything.

Coffee grabs a series of synapses and says: THIS is what we are doing now. And when you get unnerved and impatient, when you get irritable with your kids and start snapping at them, this is not a good thing. I’m not talking about morals or child rearing philosophies here, I’m talking about job satisfaction. If you’ve got anything like a conscience, you will feel bad when you are irritable and impatient with them.

Most likely they won’t care, unless it’s a constant thing. They’re much more resilient emotionally than we are. But you will feel bad. And in your lucid moments, when the roar of the din has been reduced to a brief respite just after bedtime, you will feel that you’ve missed something. It will not allow you to go gently into that good night. So look into cutting back on coffee or cutting it out completely.

I cut back. I’m down to a pot a day. It helps. What also helps is giving up the first cup of the day and replacing it with green tea. Green tea has the benefit of containing caffeine, thus keeping you awake, while also providing a calming effect. It’s the perfect beverage, full of antioxidants and cheer, and most certainly it will last longer than java.

Buy Sencha green tea, if you can get it. Sencha green tea kills cancer. Just ask the Japanese. They’re the longest-lived people in the world.

7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Discourage Your Child From Watching Porn

Yesterday I dropped the F-Bomb for the first time at wagthedad. It probably won’t be the last. I know that this might be seen as puerile and antagonistic, but I really don’t care about that. If I were going to write something nice all the time, I could just copy stuff that’s already out there.

Keeping with that impulse, so begins our 3-part series on children and porn. Not to be confused with child porn, which is abominable and should be punished by drawing and quartering.

Why You Shouldn’t Discourage Your Child From Watching Porn

So that no one starts vomiting condemnation, let’s assume we’re talking about kids who are already interested in sex, i.e. of puberty age or higher. If your six-year-old is interested in watching porn, you’ve got a whole mess of other problems that are outside of the scope of this article. And preventing a 6-year-old from watching porn is no big feat.

1) If you try, it’s only going to make them want to watch it.

This is valid for most everything you don’t want them to do. If you don’t want them to smoke pot, they will. If you are homophobic, they will turn out to be gay. If you can’t stand Democrats, then you’re going to wind up with a socialist.

Now. This does NOT mean that you should encourage your child to watch pornography. The opposite of discouraging is not encouraging. There are lots of shades of gray in between. I also know that somebody is going to say “Well, you could say the same about killing people. Or cooking meth. Or not paying your income taxes.”

Yes, yes, and yes. But that is not what I am saying. What I am saying is this:

If you don’t want your kid to do something, the WORST thing you can do is to actively discourage them from doing it. Telling them it’s not OK is one thing (whether porn is OK or not is debatable; more on this on Friday), but hounding them about it will just make them want to do it.

Case in point:

My parents made me cover my eyes or leave the room whenever any nudity showed up on the television. We’re not talking X-Rated. We’re not talking soft porn. We’re talking about back in the eighties when they still actually showed some brief nudity in PG-13 films. I could have all the violence I wanted. True to the American spirit, watching killing on television is OK, watching someone pretending to have an orgasm is not.

What happened?

We’re Going To Watch It Anyway, Mom and Dad

As soon as my father figured out how to splice TV cables, I bought myself a black and white television with my savings, hooked it up in my bedroom, and watched Europorn on Skinemax every Friday night. My parents, probably relieved that they could finally watch porn on the living room television, never questioned why I was in bed by 10:00 every night of the weekend.

2) They’re going to watch it anyway.

Yeah, yeah. Up crops the same old “well, they’re going to smoke/drive drunk/kill cheerleaders” argument we saw above. No, no, and no. Doing something harmful to your health or to others is one thing. Being curious about sex is part of becoming and being an adult.

You can’t stop that. It’s a biological thing. No matter how much abstinence you preach.

If you tell them they can’t do it, then they’re just going to find out a way to watch it. They’ll go out drinking, drive out into a cornfield and sit on the hood of a car, plugged into somebody’s iPhone.

Then they’ll drive back all drunk and stoned, somebody will get hurt and then everybody will wonder what has happened to society.

3) It is not humanly possible to stop them.

Think about how quickly technology has evolved over the past ten years. Have you kept up with the latest porn filters available for your computer/TV/cell phone? Are those going to be updated regularly by a reliable source?

I have no idea about this one. Perhaps because I work in the IT field, I wouldn’t trust any of that. Pornography has always been on the cutting edge of technology – online credit card transactions were first made possible because the adult movie industry saw a profit potential on the information superhighway – and regardless of how responsible a provider is going to be, there are bound to be some bad apples who are going to get through your standard erotic filter.

And even if you throw out all of your technology and live on a farm, your kid is going to wind up at somebody’s house some night, with the sound down on the TV and everyone snickering.

You’ll know it when they come home bleary-eyed, not smelling of alcohol and suddenly desirous of washing their own underwear.

My Child is Profane

I love my profane child. Actually, I love him BECAUSE he is profane. If he didn’t curse, he wouldn’t be as endearing. He would be normal. Normal being, of course, shitty.

I have no idea where he gets it. What I do know is that I came home the other day and while I was standing there, cleaning the dried blood from my shoes, he walked up to me and said:

“Daddy. Where is fuck?”

Being no stranger to profanity myself, I only glanced up at him for a moment before I picked up a spray bottle of bleach and began hosing the rubber soles.

“What?”
“Where is fuck?”
“Where is what?”
“FUCK!”

Confident that the DNA evidence had been thoroughly removed from my footwear, I straightened up and gave him my full attention.

“Buddy. What is ‘fuck’?”

I couldn’t have asked my daughter that question. She’s six and a half, and you never know when they learn things, do you? Had I asked her that question, she would have either blushed, giggled and run off, or she would have told me about pee pees and noonies, which is fine, I can deal with that, too, except I really didn’t feel like getting into any discussions about why you shouldn’t use swear words to describe the birds and the bees. Even if they are fucking.

My son, on the other hand, is too young to know better. So he’s off limits. Swear all you want.

My profane child. Profanity and innocence blend together and provide a warming feeling not unlike a good Bloody Mary. When they get a little older, and innocence becomes ignorance, that mix turns into something more like a Cement Mixer, but when they’re three years old, and you’ve spent your entire day running amok throughout the hallowed halls of a global corporation, walking over bodies and picking off the stragglers one by one, you need to come home to something heartwarming.

A Bloody Mary

Like a Bloody Mary. Or your three-year-old saying “fuck” for the first time.

My first impulse, swear to God, was to hug him and say:

“That’s my boy. Where is fuck? Welcome to the World of Men!”

Because isn’t that the question that most of us have been trying to answer since puberty? In many ways, life is a quest for fuck. We go to all lengths of trouble and consternation in order to get it, and then when we get it, we spend lots of money and effort in trying to hold on to it.

And, after all, this little boy in front of me was a product of all of that.

But he was pulling on my pant leg, awakening me from my reveries, and I realized that I had a question to answer.

“Buddy. What do you mean? What do you mean ‘Fuck’?”

“Vrroom-vroom!” he said, crouching down and making as if he were holding on to handlebars.

“Oh,” I said. “You mean Fahrrad! Your bicycle is called a Fahrrad!”
(Fahrrad being the German word for bicycle. We live in Vienna. We’re bilingual and shit.)

“That’s what I said, Daddy. Where is FUCK?”

It was outside, in front of the door. I wondered vaguely whether I was supposed to be doing anything. Something disciplinary. Something explanatory.

Meanwhile, my son had ridden off into the kitchen, chanting:

“Mommy look! Fuck!”