Category Archives: Parenting

Can you help a teenager out?

(tl;dr version: Jaiden needs money for medicine. Can you donate or help spread the word?

Being human can be hard work and it feels even harder when your body is conspiring against you. Everyone experiences body discomfort during their lifetimes from short-term or permanent disabilities, like the flu or not being able to walk, and we feel these discomforts physically and emotionally. Mixed with the hormone cocktail of puberty, discomforts adults or younger children will otherwise suffer through can feel excruciating with no hope of relief for adolescents.

Meet friends of my family, Jaiden and Ingrid.

Jaiden and Ingrid

Jaiden and Ingrid

Jaiden’s your typical teenager straddling childhood and adulthood. She likes kitties, her golden retriever, and wants to be an electrical engineer. But her body is fighting her, causing significant discomfort. The good news is that there’s medicine she can take so she can avoid painful and costly treatments when she’s an adult. The bad news is that her mom, Ingrid, is self-employed and her insurance company won’t pay for the medicine because they don’t cover transgender health care.

They’d rather have a kid suffer than provide puberty blockers to pause her puberty, giving her more time to make her decision about if she’ll take hormonal therapy when she’s older. Without the blockers, Jaiden will have further pubertal physical development, which will cause additional distress now and require more work to undo when she’s older if she decides to transition.

Can you help by chipping in a few dollars to Jaiden’s GoFundMe and helping to spread the word about it by sharing the link ( around?

Thank you!

Tannenbaum Tears

Don't kill it don't kill it
I'll kill myself I'll kill myself
Tears in the rain
I'll kill myself I'll kill myself

I don't want it to die I don't want it to die
Tears in the rain

   I want this tree I want this tree
   I want this tree I want this tree

I'll kill myself I'll kill myself
Don't kill it don't kill it
Tears in the rain
      Let's get a live tree
   I want this tree I want this tree
      Let's get a live tree

   Dig this one up dig this one up
      No no they don't here
      We cut them down
I'll kill myself I'll kill myself
Don't kill the tree
I'll kill myself
Tears in the rain
   Dig it up dig it up
      No no not here

      Let's go let's go
      Out of the rain
      Back to the car
      Let's talk Let's talk
I'll kill myself
      Let's go

   No tree? Cut it down! Cut it down!
I'll kill myself
Tears in the rain
      Let's go let's go
      To the car to the car
      In the car in the car
      Let's talk let's talk

      Let's get a live tree
   Dig it up! Dig it up!
      Not here not here
      Let's go let's go

   I want that tree I want that tree
      Let's go let's go
      C'mon c'mon
      Out of the rain
   I want that tree
   I hate him I hate him
   Ruins everything

   I wanted that tree
I'll kill myself
      Live tree live tree
Don't kill the tree
      Let's go let's go
    I hate him I hate him


When your eight year-old
Tells you
What he wants
To be buried
Because he’s so angry
At you
Because you
Took something
Away from him
When he was six
And he wants
To kill himself
Because of it
And he wants
To get a knife
And stab his heart
What do you say?

When he says
He’s been sad
Every day
Because that thing
Is gone
Sad on roller coasters
Sad at the zoo
Sad laughing
Sad smiling
What do you say?

When he says
He hated
The replacement
He later got
At Christmas
And didn’t tell you
He hated it
Because he didn’t
Want to hurt
Your feelings
What do you say?

When he cries
The cry of loss
Unrecoverable loss
Bone rattling loss
And the tears
Will not stop
And the cries
Of anguish
Echo in the void
And you know
You know
Where he’s at
Because you
You’ve been there too
And he’s only eight
Only eight
And you see
Before your eyes
This piece
Of your child
Tear away
And you can’t
Stop it
And you know
He’s there alone
When you’re right there
What do you say?

When he says
He hates you
And hates his life
And wants to die
And wants you to die
And his life is shit
And you’re a son of a bitch
And a fucker
And an asshole
And he wants to die
Please let me die daddy
I hate my life
Please let me die
You fucker
What do you say?

When he wants
That thing
And you’re the hate
Because it’s gone
Because you took it
You fucker
What do you say?

When you know
It’s his brain
And he’s tired
And the new meds
Might be talking
He doesn’t mean it
It’s not him
What do you say?

When he runs
For the knives
And knees you
In the head
Hard, to make you cry
And he wants to die
Wants to die
And his brother
What do you say?

When you think
You did the right thing
The best you could
All you could
Right then
Right now
And one day
He may understand
But not tonight
Not now
You fucker
You asshole
You son of a bitch
You mothefucker
You shit
You bastard
Fuck you
Leave me alone
I want to die
Let me die
Go the fuck away
Go the fuck away
Let me die
Let me die
What do you say?

When he finally drops
Still obsessed
And asking
Asking asking
Asking for it back
And you shush him
And you kiss him
On the knit forehead
You used to nuzzle
When he was baby small
And tell him
You love him
And he whispers back
With a smile
I love you too
What do you say?


I weaved, and luckily the feces flew by my face.

“You’re the worst fucking dad in the world! I fucking hate you! I want to get out of here!”

The shrill pipe of the scream doesn’t mesh with the adult curse. I have to remind myself not to take it personally and that he learned it from the kid with Tourette’s. The angry boy is here now, not the sweet one who calls kittens cute.

“You need to get cleaned up. You’re hungry. You need to eat.”

“Grrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” GO! AWAY!” His fists start windmilling at me and he also tries to kick. His head’s down, but I can see him looking out the corners of his eyes, trying to avoid stepping in his own effluent.

I hold him away with my arm. I’m hoping he doesn’t grab me. I don’t want shit on my sleeve. “You need to get cleaned up.”

“Go away! I hate you!”

It stinks in here. There’s piss and shit on the linoleum floor and the padded walls. I’d be angry about being in here, too.

“Come on, let’s go get you cleaned up.”

“RRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!” He leans into me and lands a few glancing blows on my chest. Satisfied, he pulls back and crouches in the corner.

“Mark, you can’t sit in this room naked from the waist down all day. What are you going to do?”

“Go away, dad. I hate you.”

“What do you want to do here?” the principal asks me from behind.

“I don’t know yet. I think wrap him in a towel or blanket and take him to my car.”

“I’m not going, dad. I’m staying here.”

“I thought you wanted to leave?”

“I’m not going anywhere with you.” He pokes at a turd with his finger.

Later that evening at storytime he interrupts me, “Dad, I was thinking that in graveyards, they should have bells on top of tombstones attached to strings that you could pull from inside the coffin in case someone was buried by mistake.”


“Yeah, that way they could ring the bell and someone could come and dig them up.”

“Where did you hear about that?”

“Nowhere. I just thought it up.”

When I turn out the light, kiss him goodnight, and tell him I love him, he tells me in a quiet whisper, “I love you dad. I’m sorry about today. I don’t mean what I say when I’m angry. You’re the best dad in the whole world.”

“Thanks, Mark, I love you too.”

Rationing Screen Time for Kids

If you have kids, you may be in the same boat as me – suddenly realizing that they are spending too much time in front of display screens. My wife and I are trying to ration their screen time, and I’d love to hear what you think about our method.

Our house has seven screens of various sizes, all connected to the infinite, interactive, on-demand Internet, and six are mobile devices; one television, two laptops, two tablets, and two phones. With this amount of gear, we almost always have a spare device wherever we are.

As parents, we want our kids to be comfortable and familiar with the technology given its increasing importance in global culture and commerce. We let them use those devices in order to learn how to use them and also as rewards for good behavior. But we’ve also been guilty of using those screens as babysitters when we needed to get things done or have a break from the kids. Personally, I’ve also been really bad at modeling good behavior when it comes to when and where I use my screens.

With that backdrop, the past few months have seen our kids more frequently pestering us for screen time. With one of our children, that pestering recently went beyond whining into full-blown, angry temper tantrums in public. Their expectations obviously reached the point of feeling entitled to play or watch something whenever and wherever they want.

This saddened me. Somewhere along the way, we failed our kids in setting and enforcing limits around screen use. We lost control.

The method we’re using to get it back is screen rationing, and this magnetic whiteboard with colored magnets is helping us to keep track of it all. To enforce the time limits, we use our kitchen timer or a timer on the device they are using.


Here are the rules that go with the board, and the rationale behind each rule:

  1. Each colored magnet is worth ten minutes. Discrete and concrete time units.
  2. Only mom or dad touch or move the marbles or all marbles are lost for the day. A deterrent to tampering.
  3. TV time can be shared or pooled. Encourages cooperative behavior for shows longer than 30 minutes.
  4. Computer/phone/tablet time cannot be shared or pooled. Caps total screen time per day to two hours per person.
  5. Both people lose time for fighting, no matter who started it. Deterrent to fighting.
  6. Time is lost for misbehavior. Consequences for bad behavior.
  7. Time used cannot be earned back. Used means used.
  8. Time lost can be earned back with good behavior or performing additional chores. Reinforces good behavior.
  9. Bedtime is still bedtime, even if you have time left. Limit setting.
  10. Time resets at bedtime. Every day is a new day.
  11. Time cannot be given to the other person. It’s not their responsibility to allot time.

We’re prepared for a rocky first few days or weeks for everyone as we all get used to this new structure, but we’re hopeful that the benefits will spill over into other areas.

What do you think?