The Secrets We Keep From Our Kids

by Jerry Mahoney
Originally Published: 

Hey guys, it’s me, Daddy, and I’m only writing this post because you can’t read, you don’t know what a blog is and because you’re still in that developmental sweet spot where you take everything I tell you at face value.


Your old man is full of secrets, things that could destroy my authority if you ever found out. Here are 10 highly classified facts that I will take to my grave… or at least wait to tell you until you have kids of your own.

1. TV is a reward for me, not you. There’s a reason I never promise you TV for being good. When you’re behaving, I don’t need to turn on the TV. Overall, you guys are terrific company… but when you’re not, that’s when TV comes to my rescue. Those 22 blissful minutes ofYo Gabba Gabba are my reward for getting through the crying, whining, fighting meltdown madness that’s become a recurring feature of your toddlerhood.

Here’s the big secret: if you want more TV, you should act out more. You know how sometimes I’ll pop popcorn and we’ll have a “movie day”, where we get to watch all of Beauty & The Beast orToy Story from beginning to end?

When that happens, you’ve been BAAAAAAAAAD.

You can never know this, of course, because that would encourage you to misbehave. So I have to be clever about it. I always make sure to calm you down first, so you don’t know that I’m only turning on the TV because I’m on the verge of tearing off your Tickle Me Elmo’s head with my teeth.

2. While you’re napping, I shove my face full of chocolate chip cookies for two hours straight. You don’t see me eat much, do you? It’s not because I don’t require sustenance like every other human being, though if it adds to your sense that Daddy is some kind of awesome superhuman, I’m fine with that. No, the real reason I never eat in front of you is because when you’re watching, I need to model good eating habits. You think I like eating vegetables and chewing slowly? Phooey!

I spend every moment in your presence suppressing my natural urge to shovel peanut butter M&Ms through my maw by the fistful. When you’re asleep, oh boy, do I make up for lost time. I practically funnel chocolate sauce directly down my throat. I watch lots of TV, too, and I sit as close to the screen as I want.

3. I fall for your crocodile tears about 90% of the time. I don’t know whose side of the family it comes from, but I’d be willing to bet that you two have some Meryl Streep in your blood. Your performances are unparalleled. You are gripping emotional powerhouses, both of you, able to summon cascades of tears at will. I feel like I should be tossing bouquets of flowers at your feet, or at least teaching you to act out Uncle Vanya so your talents can be put to good use.

Even when I’m sure you’re faking, I get sucked into the performance. I want to give you that second cookie you’re demanding only because I don’t have an Oscar to hand over instead.

Seriously, I don’t know how you do it. You cry over the most trivial things, but still, you get me to believe that nothing matters more in the world than you getting a turn with the “good” xylophone.

I don’t want to spoil you by always giving in, but I don’t want to stifle your theatrical gifts either.

Bravo, kids. Brav. O.

4. I don’t know how we’re going to pay for your college. I’m really grateful you guys have no concept of money, because if you knew what college costs versus how much money we have in the bank, you’d wake up crying at night even more than you already do.

Let’s put it in terms of Play-Doh. If you add together all the various sources of Play-Doh at our disposal — the cans in the craft cabinet, the little mini tubs that came with the Cookie Monster Letter Lunch set, a few unopened packages we keep stashed in the closet for rainy days — it’s a comfortable amount.

Now picture all the Play-Doh in the world. That’s what a year of college is going to cost by the time you guys are filling out your applications. I’m not exaggerating. Our Play-Doh supply would barely cover one semester of independent study credits at that college in Texas that gets all the oil subsidies. We’re screwed.

I mean, sure, we have a few years. We’ll keep stashing away Play-Doh in the meantime, but don’t get your hopes up.

5. I find your speech impediments adorable. I’ve written here before about how much I hate baby talk, and I stand by that. Grownups trying to sound like kids are idiotic. But secretly, I love hearing little kids try to sound like grownups, and failing.

I love Sutton’s slight lisp, and I get a kick out of the way Bennett drops his “S” from the start of words (“Daddy, ‘utton wants a ‘nack!”) These things remind me, as you’re growing up, that you’re still going to be little kids for a while.

I know better than to encourage poor speech habits, of course. I do the right thing, suppressing my smiles and correcting you gently, so you’ll learn to speak properly. But secretly, whenever you mangle the English language, I’m thinking, “Aww!”

6. Your other Grandpa, my dad, is dead. Sorry, this one’s kind of a downer. I’ve shown you pictures of my dad, and I’ve told you a bit about him, but I’m really grateful that you’re still too young to ask the big question: “How come we’ve never met him?” To explain that, I’d have to tell you about death. Then you’d figure out the really big secret, that daddies can die.

Ugh, I just can’t have that talk with you. And it’s not just about you not being ready. I’m not ready either. I don’t know when I will be.

When we talk about your mystery Grandpa, I tell you the good things, and then I change the subject. I know I won’t be able to get away with that forever, but for now, that’s the best plan I have.

Grandpa loved kids, by the way. You would’ve had so much fun with him.

7. “F#&%”, “S*@#”, A$$#@!&”. You know that Madonna song we love to sing along to? You’ve probably noticed how I always turn down the volume when M.I.A.’s rap part comes on. Let’s just say there are a few vocabulary words which may come in handy later in life, but which I’m glad you haven’t picked up on just yet.

8. I was an even pickier eater at your age than you are. I spend way more energy than any sane person should trying to get you kids to eat things you don’t want to. Even your junk food diet is limited. C’mon, why can’t you see how awesome Taco Bell is?

Here’s the truth, though: If I’m always encouraging you to try new foods, it’s mostly because I don’t want you to end up like me. I’m living proof you can live to the age of 14 eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and pretzels.

Sure, at some point my tastes got a bit more exotic (i.e., Taco Bell), but I’m hoping that, unlike me, you’ll have at least sampled each of the four food groups before you reach puberty.

9. Someday, I’m going to go back to work. I know you don’t understand work. That’s why you’ll sometimes cry in the middle of the afternoon and demand to pick Daddy up at the train station, as if he’s just waiting there all day for us to swing by.

Work takes daddies away from their kids, that’s all you really grasp of the concept. Well, this may come as a shock to you, but before you were born, I used to work, too. Staying home with you is better than any job I’ve ever had, and it’s worth every sacrifice Daddy and I have had to make. It’s not going to last forever, though. In the future, you won’t need me as much, at least not as much as we’ll need the second income.

A few months ago, I was in the running for a job, one that would’ve been too good to pass up. I’m not going to lie, I was excited about the prospect. I was also heartbroken. I imagined what it would be like to tell you I was going back to work, that you would now have two daddies you hardly ever saw.

Then you’d cry about how much you missed both of us, to a person we hired to take care of you all day.

10. You guys are my best friends. I used to think people who were BFFs with their kids were terrifically sad. Now, I kind of get it. No offense to any of my grown-up friends, but you’re way cooler than any of them.

Yes, I need adult conversation once in a while. I need to talk about politics and celebrity scandals and last night’s Breaking Bad. But in general, your reluctant, unfocused recounting of your school day is better than any of that. Really? Billy spilled his juice at snack time? Tell me more!

Again, you can never know this, because the only thing sadder than you being my best friends would be if I were yours. You don’t need a graying old doofus roughly 14 times your age as a buddy. You need me as a parent. My job isn’t to play trains with you and Billy after school, it’s to serve you juice… and to send Billy’s parents the cleaning bill when he spills it all over you.

F#&%in’ Billy.

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