“What’s for dinner?”
Insert any random meal at this juncture.
“Ugh, really? I don’t want {insert random food from above}”
This interaction happens at several junctures in life. The first is of course the blessed two’s and three’s. Those blissful years of sleeplessness, smattered with the anxiety that you are completely fucking this human’s life to shreds. The second time is when you’ve made the determination on whether they’re fucked or not. This glorious 48 months are called the tween/teens.

Now, I don’t remember much of the two’s & three’s. Between the sleep deprivation brought about by their existence and the new-found alcoholism I was embarking on, those years are a bit of a blur. So I’m walking Highway Holy Shit for the first time. Before I get too far into this and you cast me as the part of complete douche-bag-non-existent-totally-fucking-horrible-father, I’m an incredibly involved parent. I love my kids more than life itself. Their existence is the reason I continue to have mine. But, my God they’re little fuckers. How is it that two children in a comfortable middle class, Midwestern home with every amenity known to man, every toy and tool at their disposal can be so fucking bored all the goddamn time? How is it that a meal can be produced that only last week was the most amazing culinary display on the planet is now the most banal disgusting gray slime known to man? How? I’ll tell you how. They’re fucking toddlers. That’s right, they’re toddlers with an expanded vocabulary.

Don’t believe me? Please allow me to compare and contrast.
Scenario 1: Sharing a toy.
Scene: Toy is big enough for two children to play with it and both wish to. But neither truly wishes to have the other child playing with said toy.
Toddler Response: The toddler at any given moment can go from a docile creature, sunlit and smiling; an Instagram photo in the flesh. With the hint of an intruder to the area, quickly the color of the sun turns to sackcloth and the screaming and gnashing of teeth begins. You try to reason with the beast, but the once tranquil creature that you were photographing, and hashtagging, and swooning over has now bitten you and the other child. Thankfully the other child is your own so when the words, “FUCKING HELL” come forth, there’s no other parent involved to thoroughly judge you. So now the scene that started out worthy of telling yourself – Dude you sooo got this – spirals into a chaotic war zone where you’re dragging your midget Lieutenant Dans from the jungle and loading them into their car seat before other parents start the inevitable side-of-head-look. You will never return to that fucking park again. Obviously. (Screaming continues; bribes, Thomas the Tank Engine on DVD, whatever just chill the fuck out guys)

Pre-Teen Response: Same scenario only this time, thank fuck, it’s in your living room and Minecraft is the new jungle gym.


I believe the reason this game uses meditation music while playing is a fruitless attempt at tranquilizing hormone induced pre-teens into a state of Zen. This unfortunately is not what transpires. At first it’s all quite harmless, they build a world, they play in the world, and it is good. But after day seven, just like a deity all hell breaks loose. Turns out one of your kids is a Mesopotamian pagan fuckwit and burns down the other child’s home. Wrath and vengeance ensue: cattle are slaughtered, villagers stabbed, it’s an 8 bit version of Leviticus, and then things go analog. From across the room one lunges at the other with clenched fist. You run from whatever you’re doing to pull the rabid dogs off of each other and ask one question, “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK GENTLEMEN?”

The F-Bomb is like electroshock therapy to a 10 year old mind. It jolts them from their testosterone fueled primal state, into a puddle of emotion. “Why are you swearing at me dad?” All color is immediately removed from the face and excreted from some orifice. “I’m so sorry, honey, daddy was wrong. He shouldn’t have said that. Now tell me what’s going on.” And we revert right back to where we were just 10 years ago, blaming yelling, attempts at biting, hitting, ad nauseum. You turn off the Xbox, and begin the cycle of bribery and punishment all over again.

Scenario 2: Food
Let us revisit the original scenario from earlier shall we?
Toddler Response: No. Food is pushed and tossed, games are attempted, a tiny bit is consumed, and finally you walk away to find the Cheerios and pour it in a bowl. Fuck it – done.
Pre-Teen Response: Ugh. Really again? I try to reason explaining the history of the meal, that just last week he was saying how much he loved it. But of course that was last week and time marches on and apparently palettes make full shifts within the same seven days. The one great part about them being older is you can say, “Fine dude, you don’t like it, make your own.” This ends exactly as it did as a toddler with more autonomy. They begrudgingly grab their plate, huff back to a device and pick at what’s made. Then with a grunt they’ll toss the food, grab a bowl, and pour some Cheerios. Fuck it – done.


Pre-teens don’t mean to act like toddlers, they really don’t. But toddlers and tweens are in very much the same position. They’re seeking autonomy, a separation between themselves and their parents. The knowledge of this is nearly as painful as the acts they take to create that separation. The little fuckers have this inherent need to grow up and be their own people. But both periods of life are also really cool. At the toddler stage we don’t have to wake up every two hours every night (unless we are idiots and keep breeding like I did) and we get to see them figure their own likes and dislikes out. They’re no longer helpless and they’ll be the first to tell you that. It makes them shitheads, but also really fucking cool. Tweens are the same way, they’re toddlers with bigger vocabularies. They’re also getting old enough to gain empathy. So while they’re happy to tell you to fuck off, they are still small enough to regret that decision and hug you while saying, “I’m sorry.” But it’s all gone so soon. Which is a positive and a negative. It’s great in that they’ll eventually get over their shit, and figure out I’m not such a douche bag. But it also means that they’ll be going soon, and I’ll be left looking forward to their calls and texts like my parents do.

Matthew P


Matthew is a proud loving parent of three: 10, 12, and 22.  He coaches, teaches, and screws up with them as often as they’ll allow.  He also writes about his other agonies and ecstasies beyond parenting at www.theunanonymousalcoholic.com. Follow him on Twitter: @matthewaperkins