9 Kinds of Dads at the Pool

I really enjoyed the Scary Mommy post “Types of Moms you Meet at the Pool” and I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t very much diversity in the Dad ecosystem at my favorite aquatic habitat. So I donned my trusty fedora and set off to do a little field research, and now I can safely say I’m wrong. I present the results of my findings, complete with fake Latin names because I watched a lot of Wile E. Coyote cartoons as a kid.


1) Just-came-from-work Dad

Paternis inasuiticus

This Dad is typically a nocturnal species, emerging as the sun starts to set. He appears, usually at swim practice, in full office garb, instead of going home to change first like a sensible person. This appears to be a remnant of behavior from pre-Dad days, as it advertises his fitness to reproduce by showing that he has a Real Job. If the mate is already present, it is definitely a show-off move designed to allow his mate to demonstrate her success at garnering a suitable breeding partner.

2) Yelling Dad

Paternis bellowsalota

This species’s primary habitat is on the shores of chlorinated bodies of water. This species is notable for a wide range of calls it performs at maximum volume. No one is sure why the Yelling Dad does this, but some researchers theorize he is attempting to use the air from his lungs to propel his offspring across the water. Yelling Dads are usually wearing athletic clothing from some other sport, frequently football, which leads other researchers to believe that perhaps this is not a distinct species at all and just some dudes who are lost on the way to a sports bar.

3) Statistician Dad

Paternis pencilpocketus

The “Stat Dad” is frequently found perched somewhere above chlorinated bodies of water, quietly but intently observing every activity in the pool. This dad is most known for his detailed, multi-tabbed, color-coded spreadsheet showing his offspring’s relative rankings at the club, state, district, and national levels. Statistician dads favor baseball caps and actually care about baseball. Do not make the mistake of assuming that their lack of volume does not equal ferocity: many a rival has woken in the hospital recovering from mechanical pencil stab wounds and a clipboard-induced concussion.

4) Fun Dad

Paternis throwthekidicus

Paternis throwthekidicus is the only observed aquatic species of Pool Dads. Fun Dads seem to prefer repeatedly ejecting their offspring from the water in what appears to be an attempt to get their offspring to swim away and start their own family. This never seems to work, however, as the offspring continue to return, only to be thrown again and again. Paternis throwthekdicus is easily identified by the outrageously bad pair of swimming trunks that were obviously purchased by his mate in an attempt to disguise his suitability for breeding and ward off competition. Sometimes Fun Dads can be found in the more shallow bodies of chlorinated water, in which case they can be identified by nearby pink or blue-colored offspring and/or an abundance of pool toys and flotation devices.

5) Granddad Dad

Paternis granpaternis

Grandad Dad is a close relative of Fun Dad and engages in similar behaviors, just a little more slowly and with more attendant grunts of effort. Paternis granpaternis frequently displays black markings on the feet up to knee height, and may also have a large floppy hat. Late in the day, although sometimes as early as lunch time, some are observed to turn bright red in coloring, because back in his day he didn’t wear sunscreen and he turned out just fine, no matter what your grandmother might say.

6) Office Dad

Paternis gottaworkus

Office Dad appears to be a relative of Paternis inasuitacus, and some researchers believe they might be the same. Office Dads are normally only found at indoor pools on the weekends, usually with the laptop, inkjet printer, folding desk, wheelie chair, and Nespresso machine. They can also be identified by their detachment from their surroundings, conversations with imaginary friends, and shortened life expectancy. Researchers theorize this may be an evolutionary  “dead end”.

7) Slacker Dad

Paternis notthatmucha

Paternis notthatmucha’s habitat is any shady spot near the pool which enhances the visibility of his smartphone. Noted for their drab plumage such as flip flops, shorts, and a faded Dead Milkmen t-shirt. Slacker Dads are notable for the lack of accessories associated with their (probably) nearby offspring, including pool toys, sunscreen, towels, and frequently bathing suits.

8) Hercules Dad

Paternis toofiticus

Paternis toofiticus is notable for being the most muscular of the Paternis family. Attire is usually a pair of Oakley sunglasses that are welded to his cranium. Females are advised to maintain at least a 10 foot separation as spontaneous, airborne pregnancies have been documented arising from close contact with Hercules Dad. Also avoid eye contact as that may cause leg weakening and uncontrollable lip-wetting. Researchers are unable to determine how this species can maintain a state of physical near perfection and be good with his kids because he’s obviously a giant d-bag I mean just look at him.

9) Mom Dad

Paternis nurtura

Paternis nurtura is a recent discovery but researchers are startled to find these members of the Paternis family in ever-greater numbers. Unlike every other member of the genus, the Paternis nurtura bears the primary responsibility for raising the offspring. This mystifying behavior has led some to believe that this species is actually not actually of genus Paternis at all, because everyone knows boys can’t be be loving, nurturing, or responsible. Mom Dads are identified by their multitude of pouches which contain an assortment of wipes, snacks, drinks, toys, and burbons.

Further research is recommended until Labor Day, ideally with a cooler containing beverages of an uncertain nature. If you spot any new species, let me know!


Cheating at life

One of the hardest things for me about being a parent is dealing with the idea that there are just certain things I can’t (and even shouldn’t) do for my kids. I didn’t realize just how strong the urge would be to jump in the middle of something they were doing and “help.”

I want to help them cheat at life.

Even by my standards this is a horrible idea. I still wonder, though, if I could give my kids the real benefit of my experiences, what would I give them?


When you’re a kid, life is really just a series of screw-ups waiting to happen. Sometimes I forget this, which leads me to ask the largely rhetorical question: “What were you thinking?”

I have failed atrociously over the course of my life; fortunately, the biggest Fails have happened well before the era of Social Media so they exist undocumented, save in the mythology of my old friends.

Note to old friends who may be reading this: I will be moderating the heck out of these comments. “Undocumented” is the key word here.

I wish I could rip some of these mistakes right out of my head, blow on them a  bit to dust them off, and then shove them Nintendo-style into right into their little brains.


For the cheat codes you still have to buy the strategy guide, though
you still have to buy the strategy guide if you want to get 100% complete


No, don’t ask that person out! Look what will happen! [thunk]

Beer OR Jagermeister, not Beer AND Jagermeister! Look what will happen! [thunk]

Watch out for that tree! [thunk]



How is a kid supposed to know when they’re good at something or not, when they haven’t sucked at enough things to be able to know what being good at something feels like?

On the other hand, I have sucked at a looooot of things. Here’s a short selection:

  • I had an ill-considered foray into stand-up comedy my senior year of high school that resulted in the football team chasing me off the stage
  • I got fired from my job in gas station when I was 17. Fired. From a gas station.
  • All of 1997.


The first concert I ever went to see. Life lesson: a lot of your “firsts” are cringe-worthy 20 years later


I wish I could give my kids the feeling that no matter what, everything will probably be all right in the end, even if it takes a while to get there.


Sometimes things aren’t all right in the end, though. Like a tree that’s been pruned by a 1976 Volvo, sometimes life comes along and takes a big chunk out of you and It. Never. Grows. Back.

Death of a loved one. Stricken by disease or injury. The world is full of stories of people who inspire us by not just surviving but thriving in the face of something life-altering. Even if you’re in really bad shape, you can get better.


Sometimes, though, you end up with a cool dinosaur shape
You might even end up with a cool dinosaur shape



I used to believe that if I ever ran away to a Tibetan monastery and devoted my entire life to mastering the martial arts and learning Ancient Secrets that I could one day become Batman. The fact that I wasn’t yet Batman was a matter of personal choice–I just didn’t exercise the option.

One day I groggily sat up, scratches myself inappropriately, coughed, and threw my back out. At that precise moment I realized that, like a cosmic odometer rolling over an infinitesimal probability, my chances of becoming Batman went from practically zero to exactly zero.

I am still coming to terms with the door closing on my once-promising career in the Justice League. I haven’t given up on the gadgets or the batmobile yet. On the plus side, I have realized there are an entire set of things that are not me, and I am totally fine with this.

My standards of dress have also loosened considerably


One of the things I never realized was just how good I had it, whenever it was being had. Consider:

When you’re a baby people feed you, ooh and ah over you, you can sleep as much as you want, and toes are a delicious and entertaining treat. It probably doesn’t get any better than this, but you’re a stupid baby and in a rush to be a “big kid” so you can do it all by yourself. STUPID BABY! GO BACK TO BEING A BABY!

When you’re a big kid your job is to play and learn. Sometimes things are hard–like the pavement, which you are always running into. If you make a mess of things, though, no one will really remember except your sister, because remembering all of your mistakes is what sisters are for. You still get fed with alarming regularity and you never want to sleep. Toes are not as delicious as pizza. You can’t reach the high stuff in the cabinets without climbing on the counter. If only you were a little bigger, a little taller, a little faster.

When you’re a teenager you don’t “play” any more (unless it’s video games or sports), but you do a lot of “hanging out”, which looks a lot like playing but is less lame.  Your parents claim they feed you, but you suspect they are lying liars because you are always hungry. You can finally reach the top shelf without having to climb on the counter, yay! You can also be tried as an adult just for having a girlfriend with high-strung parents, boo. Mostly, you just can’t wait to go to college.

In college you do less drudgery than you ever did your entire academic career and you’re entirely unsupervised. You are legally an adult but still mentally a child, with all of the rights and privileges that go along with making horrible life choices that entails. You are also broke and can’t wait until you get out of school and get a Real Job.

You finally land your first Real Job, only to discover that now you have Real Bills. You wake up dreaming of sucking on toes and book an appointment with your therapist because that can’t be normal…

Nothing says "I love you" like the gift of Social Isolation!
I should tweet that #weirdtoedream

Up Up Down Down…

I was swapping kid stories with a friend the other day and she was sharing an elaborate hoax she pulled off on their kids to get them to think they had school on a holiday, complete with a fake twitter account and everything, which was absolutely brilliant. This, I think, is the perfect metaphor for why experience has to be earned and not given:

Without the head start of old age, how the heck am I supposed to mercilessly troll my children?



Skinny Lazy Nerds

If there’s one thing, ONE THING, that makes me foam at the mouth, it’s when people insist that “X” makes you fat, when “X” is anything other than “consume more calories than you expend”.

This is the other thing. via overflowingbrain.com.

Video games make us fat.

TV makes us fat.

Working on a computer all day makes us fat.

These days the F-word seems to apply to anyone who doesn’t have a thigh gap.

F-word them.

Skinny Lazy Nerds

Being lazy does not make you fat. The world is full of skinny, lazy people. I am one of them. I was 80 pounds soaking wet through most of high school.

I was also a band nerd with helmet hair.

High school was not kind.

Obesity seems to be the only disease where it’s still socially acceptable to blame the ill.

We know what *this guy* did too much of when he was a teenager, amiright?

We are only beginning to understand the real complexity of the triggers for this disease. Why are there some people who only have to look at ice cream to gain weight? Once you are obese, it’s very, very hard to lose weight– it seems like you are literally fighting a constant battle against your body’s survival mechanisms.

So why are we getting worse?

If there’s one thing we can trust humanity to do, it’s figure out how to make a buck from the suffering of others.


Zach and Miri Make a Smoothie

The American diet industry goes back to at least the 1950s when the first weight loss drink appeared on the market. Prior to that point, food science had not matured to the point where we were able to manipulate our food at the chemical level (beyond burning the meatloaf), so weight loss fads focused on concealing rubber garments.

Something something society women something dissolving flesh wait what? via abcnews.com
Something something society women reducing flesh wait what? via abcnews.com

My favorite obesity conspiracy theory is that used to be cheap corn creates high fructose corn syrup, which gets added to everything and makes us fat. It turns out that this may not be the entire problem.

It’s not just corn that’s cheap: wheat and soy are both commodity crops that are frequently over-produced and/or receive subsidies. Removing those subsidies won’t have a substantial effect because the prices will still stay low, because economics.

In other words, it’s not the farmers who stand to gain from over production, but the processed food industry. As long as the wheat in our Wheat Thins is stupid cheap to for Nabisco to buy, there is plenty of budget left for clever marketing!


We’re damned from the moment we open our eyes, because we interact so heavily with media during the course of the day that our brains are saturated with the tantalizing deliciousness of Cool Ranch Doritos from birth to age 99. By the time we set foot in the grocery store, we’re already well-programmed to self-destruct.

Kale is the new black

The experts will tell you “Oh just shop the outside of the store.” These experts have never gone grocery shopping a DAY IN THEIR LIVES.

I think the stores are getting wise to this strategy because I haven’t been into a grocery store yet where the bakery was in the middle bit.

Regardless, as soon as I walk in, my cart is making a beeline through the asparagus and to the cakes.


Also, juice boxes are not near the organic kale, and you can bet which one the kids will give me grief over when they find it in their lunch boxes.

In fact, kids are probably the real leading cause of obesity in this country.

More times than I can count I have eaten leftover chicken nuggets because the child was done and I can’t waste good Chik-fil-a.


It’s only recently, as a direct result of a few of my children somehow surviving long enough despite my constant efforts to screw them up, that I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I can say from personal experience it gets better.

Slowly, ever so slowly, they start to appreciate real food.

In our house Mrs. Nostrikethat and I agree that the best thing we can do for our kids to help make them successful is to make sure they’ve got a good mix of fat, fiber, carbs, and veggies on their plates so they can wander off in the middle of dinner to go play.

As I have written before, feeding kids (and especially toddlers) is an exercise in the absurd. They never like what you make, and it seems like you just get the kitchen cleaned up when they’ve digested the tiny amount of food they just ate and are back for more. I’m no internet expert here, either.

The kid wants peanut butter and jelly for dinner again? Fine.

The 6 year old is having food sensory issues again today? Fine, eat Cheerios.

I’m even using JIF, because I’m a choosy mom. Dad. Whatever.


Taking a stand (while sitting)

Let’s review the forces in play. In this corner, we have:

  • The multi-billion dollar processed food industry and their advertising
  • The grocery stores where I buy my food to live
  • My own body which, as I type this, is salivating over the prospect of potato chips


  • Two weak-willed adults trying to make the best food shopping choices for their kids while acknowledging it’s nearly impossible to feed a three year old broccoli without committing horrific violence on someone
  • Kale

My response?


Parents, give it your best shot.

Take your kids to the playground when you can.

Try to put something green on the plate when you can.

Maybe ease up on the soda and drink a little more water yourself.

There are countless ways we can be bad at being parents, and no expert is going to tell you to just muddle through because that doesn’t sell a lot of books.

Worst case scenario, your kid grows up and writes stories with funny pictures in them on the Internet.

If I have to be outraged by something, I’m outraged by the fact that in the United States today there are more than 16 million children living in poverty.

I am outraged that there are 50,000 kids in our nation’s capital that may not eat on snow days.

How much iPad someone else’s kid plays? Not so much. Those stakes aren’t very high.

Mmmm… steak.