Category Archives: Dadditude Blog

A Blossoming Concept

It’s that time of year again, when a Washingtonian’s thoughts drift, like pink-white petals borne on a spring breeze, to the idyllic moment when the cherry blossoms bloom. Those of us who are parents tingle with the anticipation of bringing our young ones to the tidal basin, gently sharing with them the majestic symbolism of a tree that blooms but one week a year: it reminds us that life must be appreciated, in the moment it unfolds, for it is as beautiful as it is brief. We imagine the peaceful look on our children’s faces, as they absorb the wonder and magic of this moment.

We imagine this, of course, because we are idiots.

We imagine this because, in this hectic work-a-day world, we sometimes forget the important events of the past.

Like, the last time we tried to go see the cherry blossoms.

When my son Max was four, I decided he was ready for the experience. I did remember from previous years that it was impossible to drive down to the Mall when the cherry blossoms bloom. I did not remember that, on that particular weekend, it’s impossible to take the Metro and breathe at the same time.

With each stop, it seemed, more idyll-seekers, native and tourist alike, got on the train. No one got off, as though we were trapped in some evil experiment of one-way osmosis. And so, by the time we were disgorged onto the Smithsonian Station, we were all in a lousy mood. We walked about half-way to the tidal basin when Max announced that he absolutely could not take one more step. With threats of lost Nintendo time alternating with promises of ice cream to come, I dragged and cajoled and bribed him for the remaining four blocks, and finally made it within rock-throwing distance of a cherry tree (I know it was rock-throwing distance because that’s what Max commenced doing). The trees are, indeed, spectacular. Which is, to a four-year-old, entirely underwhelming.

I had it all planned. We would make the loop around to the Jefferson Memorial, for the most spectacular view, looking back toward the Washington Monument.  Max had it all planned as well. We would give up this foolishness and find the nearest toy store.


I decided to make the best of a bad situation; from just the right angle, with just the right lens, I could get a picture with both Max and a cherry blossom in it. We might not experience the moment, but I could create a photo that made it look like we had. (Come to think of it, in retrospect, I could have just Photoshopped him into a picture of the cherry blossoms and saved ourselves the trip. What was I thinking?)

But Max would sit for a photo no more than he would stand for a march around the blossoms. I tried in vain, once more, to get him moving. Finally, Max announced, in the emphasize-every-syllable voice that only a four-year-old can pull off with precision, “I! DON’T! WANT! TO! WALK! ANYMORE!”

And so we sat.

We sat under the first tree we came to, in the shade. And we did… nothing. Like a sinner on the edge of Eden, I had touched the margin of the beautiful garden, but I could not enter. It was Max’s backdrop, but it was not his world. We watched the thousands tramping on toward the tidal basin. We did not join them.

And it was lovely.

With a sigh, I gave up on the cherry blossom walk, and we headed back to the metro, passing the Department of Agriculture, where Max insisted I read every commemorative plaque to him, identifying every tree. These were not cherry blossoms. But they told their own stories (Bradford Pear. White Fringe. American Chestnut, planted in honor of Martin Luther King. Bald Cypress, planted in honor of those who lost their lives in a grain elevator accident while working for the Federal Grain Inspection Service).

There was a kite-flying exhibit going on behind us on the Mall, and Max was upset that he did not have a kite, but then his face brightened. “I’m a kite!” he yelled. “Daddy, fly me!” And he ran up the hill, diving and swooping like the kites above him, and turned around for Daddy to reel him in, and laughed, and laughed, and did it all again.

It was not at all how I’d planned to spend the day — but it was a great day nevertheless. Sometimes the best days are not the ones you made happen, but the ones you allow to happen.

This is a lesson I seem to need to learn again, and again, and again.

It may not be the lesson the cherry blossoms were planted to remind us of.

Or then again, maybe it is.

Pollack Guest Essay

“Dad, are white and blue Hanukkah’s favorite colors?”

“Yes, Max. Please put on your shoes.”

It is a morning like any other morning, only more so. I am, once again, desperately trying to get Max out the door in time for car pool; Max is, once again, desperately trying to disprove the existence of linear thought.

“Dad, what is the country with the white and blue flag?”

“That’s Israel, Max. It’s where the Jews live.”

“And fairies.”

“Fairies, Max? Maybe you’re thinking of Ariel, not Israel.”

“Of course not! Ariel is a mermaid, not a fairy. Mermaids live in the ocean. I don’t like the beach anymore because rember that time I got sand in my blue bathing suit with the dolphins on it? You left that bathing suit at the beach, dad. What were you thinking?”

What, indeed.

Now that Max is in kindergarten, at the same school as the kids across the street, we thought we’d gain a few hours a week by carpooling with the neighbors. Big mistake. Nothing in life makes it clear how unfit you are to be a Regular Parent than car pool. All of your ex-hippie, go-with-the-flow parenting philosophies go out the window when it is 7:35 a.m. and you see the neighbor and his kid headed for the car, right on time, and you are nowhere near anything approaching that elusive, unattainable state of being known as Ready To Leave The House. This is all made more impossible by Max’s refusal to accept the concept of having one conversation at a time.

“Max, no really, shoes, buddy. Shoes. Let me help you with your shoes.”

“Becca has two watches. Can I have two watches? I need to bring this telephone to school.”

And this is one of our more successful conversations. For reasons I cannot fathom, just as Max has started learning to read and write – a thrilling, mind-bending experience for a parent, because nothing, nothing, nothing prepares you for the joy of getting a note from your son that says “dad i lov you,” even if that note is unfortunately written on the front of a proposal that’s due today and you have to go to Kinkos to make another copy —  just as he has started learning to read and write the English language, he unfortuantely has forgotten how to speak it.

“Max, look, Emma and Peter are out of their house. We have to go right now.”

“Bloo daba ra dimba!” he says, his eyes aglow with the joy of uttering such a  brilliant bon mot.

What is this language phenomenon? Does anyone have Eric Ericson’s phone number? Maybe he can explain it, big shot child psychologist that he is. Oh, wait – Eric Ericson’s dead. I’m screwed.

The neighbor is making the universal symbol of what-is-wrong-with-you-people: He is looking at his watch. To make sure we haven’t missed this, he checks it again, frowning at the realization that it is at least 20 seconds later than the last time he checked.

The neighbor’s children look wistfully at our house, wondering why we are endangering their education and their futures with our recurring inability to get out the door.

Who the hell decided the world has to start so early in the morning, and with such regularity? I make a mental note to take out a bank loan and start the Flextime School for the Temporally Challenged. Kindergarten will have a telecommuting option. I will make a mint off of parents like me.

It is time for the nuclear option. “Max, if you do not get dressed right now I am taking away your Hot Wheels cars. I mean it. Let’s go.”

The joy is gone from Maxie’s face. His shoulders droop in resignation. He drops to the floor and puts on his shoes.

My face flushes at the sight of this miserable, defeated, obedient child. I desperately do not want to be that parent. I want to be the Harpo Marx of parents, making impossibly funny faces and throwing papers in the air. Now I am the Margaret Dumont of parents, stern and dull and sucking the air out of the room.

Max puts his backpack on, and lets me off the hook. “Sorry daddy,” he says. “I love you.” I get a hug, and he turns, and runs out the door. He stops. He turns back. “Do I get to keep my Hot Wheels cars?”

“I think I have two new ones for when you get home.”

“Woo-hoo!” he shouts, and gallops gleefully away.

Eric Ericson says that for a child, identity consists of building the bridge between the inner and outer world. I think it’s the same for a parent. Some mornings, that bridge seems impassible. Thankfully, Max reminds me how to cross it. And, more importantly, how to cross back.

Home Mom Guest Blog

Hi there everybody. I’m Phil Lerman, author of the recently published “Dadditude.” I was very excited when Homemom invited me to do a guest blog today. Heck, when you’re a stay-at-home dad, you’re happy for ANY excuse to relate to other grownups. When I go out for business meetings now, I find myself sitting at lunch with clients and saying, “My, what a pretty tie! Did your mommy buy that tie for you?”

I noticed that Homemom was wondering why guys hate to ask directions, and can’t stand when their wives start to try to navigate – but we love our GPS tracking systems in our cars. After extensive research (I asked my wife and my friend Scott, who are a woman and a man, respectively), I have your answer.

My wife, the sociobiologist, says that all our behaviors can be traced genetically back to our caveperson days. My friend Scott, the real estate guy, needs to find lots of addresses in neighborhoods he never goes to. Me, I just get lost a lot. So here’s how it all fits together.

Men navigate by numbers and directions. We like to focus directly on our prey, and hit it without distraction. This comes from the days when we were hunters: When you’re chasing the mastodon, you can’t be looking around at the trees.

Women navigate by landmarks. They look around a lot as they navigate. This comes from your days as gatherers, when you had to notice all the berries on all the different trees. If you got too focused, you missed the berries.

Men say: Go three blocks. Then turn left. Women say: Go down to the Starbucks. Then turn left. Men say: There’s a Starbucks there? I never noticed. Women say: That’s because you are an idiot. (Women say that to me a lot, actually).

This is why women are better shoppers than men: You love malls because you can gather there. Lots to look at. Men hate them because they are too distracting. My favorite mall would be called the Black Shoes In Size Eleven Triple-E Mall. I’d go, I’d get my shoes, I’d come home and watch football.

And this is also why men and women can’t give each other directions.

You could take all the street signs down in your city, and women wouldn’t notice. They’d get home via landmarks. Men, on the other hand, would wander aimlessly for days, asking each other, “Is this, by any chance, Seventh Street?”

Which is why we love our GPS. It speaks in a woman’s voice (we always set it to the woman’s voice), but it gives directions like a man. Go two-point-three miles. Then turn LEFT. The map is, delightfully, devoid of all landmarks.

And unlike my wife, my GPS does not need to turn the map upside down when we are headed south.

I’m not saying our directions are any better than yours, mind you – just different. I actually heard my wife give her friend directions to our house the other day, like this: “Keep driving until you see that store that used to always have the red dress in the window. Turn left there.” What’s more amazing, the friend arrived for lunch, on time.

I think that once you accept that we speak different languages in all sorts of ways – giving directions, for example, or say, raising the children – then you can start to translate for each other. And maybe learn each other’s languages a bit. That’s what I try to do in Dadditude: It’s a humorous look at parenting, but I also like to think of it as a translation device for parents. A way to learn to speak both distinct languages, the Mother Tongue and Daddy-speak.

If you can master that, you can even, probably, give each other directions without going crazy.

You can read more about Dadditude, or order the book, at Phil Lerman’s website, – or you can just go there and listen to the cool music.



Two Times the Fun Guest Blog

Hi everybody! I’m the author of a new book called “Dadditude,” and I’ve been invited by Shari to do a guest blog on my favorite topic:

Are all dads idiots, or not?

“It drives me crazy that most bloggers only complain about their husbands,” Shari says. “If they are all such idiots, why did these women marry them?”

Good question.

Here’s the answer.

I figured this out not at home, but at work. I spent 25 years in newspapers and TV, first as national editor of USA Today, later as co-executive producer of “America’s Most Wanted.” So I had literally hundreds of managers work for me. And you know their favorite story?

“My staff are all idiots.”

I heard this from managers every day: Everyone who works for me is an idiot. They can’t do anything. But don’t worry, because I fixed everything they messed up. Good thing I’m here!

Sound familiar?

These managers were taking control and power in the office place by making themselves seem indispensable. It took a long time for them to learn that you’re not going to get fired if your staff does well. Nobody’s gonna replace you. In fact, you’ll probably get a raise for training such a good staff.

Moms take a while to learn this too. That it’s OK to lose control of the home a little, to give up some of that amazing mommy power to a mere mortal (my wife even lets me dress my son all by myself sometimes! Well, not if he’s going out of the house or anything. But still!)

Trust me. Even if you stop telling everyone what an idiot your husband is, nobody’s gonna fire you.

Well, you might get suspended now and then.

But what the heck. Everybody needs a day off once in a while.

Hope you guys will visit my website – – and remember, the timing of this guest post is in NO WAY an indication that “Dadditude” would make a great Christmas or Chanukkah gift, but if you were to draw that conclusion on your own, no one would call you an idiot.

GNM Parents

I was excited to be invited to be a guest blogger for the one-year anniversary of GNM Parents. Heck, when you’re a stay-at-home dad, you’re happy for ANY excuse to relate to other grownups. When I go out for business meetings now, I find myself sitting at lunch with clients and saying, “My, what a pretty tie! Did your mommy buy that tie for you?”

Don’t get me wrong – I love the fact that I get to be home at 3 pm when my son Max comes home from kindergarten, and we sit on the floor, and share a cookie, and I ask him what happens at school today, and invariably he utters those wonderful words – “I don’t remember.” I live for that.

I didn’t used to be a stay-at-home dad. I used to produce a TV show called “America’s Most Wanted.” In my 15 years there, I helped put more than 700 bad guys behind bars, and brought 30 missing children home to their parents. Until I had a kid of my own, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.

Dads with high-pressure jobs have trouble coming home from the office. We spend our days in places of great structure, where people actually do what you tell them to do, and goals are achieved, and we come to believe that there is order in the universe.

A five-year-old takes that belief and stuffs cheese balls in its ear.

Megan tells me that one of the prizes in the GNM giveaway is a copy of my book, “Dadditude.” I’m quite honored. In “Dadditude,” I try to talk about how I made that transition – from believing in order, to accepting and embracing the chaos – and in travelling the country and talking to other dads, I’ve learned I’m not alone. The biggest difference I’ve found between dads and moms is that dads think you have to be consistent – that if the child whines once and gets his way, then you have taught him that whining is a productive activity. Therefore, we must never give in. Moms know better – they know you have to pick your battles if you’re going to survive until dinner.

My sense of “Dadditude” is learning the lesson of finding the middle ground:

It’s OK to be consistent. Just not all the time.


I have just returned from the latest meeting of the Random Motion Amoeba Association, or, as it is known in our county, T-ball Practice.

The idea of starting Max off in the baseball world was, for me, a momentous event; for other fathers, I’m sure there are other great firsts – going fishing, learning to swim, chugging Yeagermister. But for me, images of Mutt Mantle tossing fastballs to the switch-hitting young Mickey Charles behind the barn loom large, and, while Max and I have had various games of what we euphemistically call “catch” (if I can get Max to keep his glove perfectly still and I toss the ball directly into it, I get to yell “great catch!”’ “great throw” is defined as anything that does not hit the dog), I could not wait to bring him to join his first, real, team.

It turns out that if you expand the concept of “team” to mean “eleven kids throwing their gloves at each other, running into each other, and stopping to grab clumps of dirt which they either heave high into the air while yelling “woo-hoo!” or shove directly into their mouths while yelling “Yuck! Dirt!” – well, then, my friend, we have ourselves a first-class Team.

Coach Brian, after a few practice sessions, decided to try, on this particular week, to have an actual one-inning T-Ball game. He lined up the kids, and, using the foolproof coaches’ call-and-response that gets all kids attention –

COACH: “One-two-three! Eyes-on-me!”

KIDS: “One! Two! Eyes on you!”

COACH: “OK, are we ready to play some baseball!”
KIDS: “Hey! Look! The ice cream truck! Yaaaay!”

COACH: “One-two-three! Eyes-on-me!”

KIDS: “Sound of screaming children running off into the distance!”

— had them ready for divvying up into teams. He tapped each kid, in order, on the head, saying, “You’re team one! You’re team two! One, two, one two” – and so on until each boy was assigned. Then: “Team one, to first base! Team two, to third base!”

At which point, most of Team One headed in the direction of Anywhere, most of Team Two sat down, and the remainder of the boys either grabbed a bat and started playing Star Wars, or got into a wrestling match over who actually is the King of Home Plate, with the exception of one boy who got stepped on, started crying, and inexplicably yelled, “Die, Teen Titans!”

Close enough. Play ball!

The game itself seemed to consist of more dirt-throwing, light-saber-fighting, and  base-stealing (not in the Ricky Henderson sense, but in the sense of some kid getting bored, grabbing first base, and running in the direction of the Port-A-Potty). I did hear Coach Brian utter the following phrases, rendered here verbatim and without comment:

“Andrew, your glove goes in your hand, not in your mouth!”

“There is no tackling in baseball! There is no tackling in baseball!”

“No armpit farts until after the game!”

On the other hand, Max, who got up last, with the bases loaded, smacked the ball off the tee, and (partly becase the other team had long since lost track of anything that was going on) wound up with a home run.

His first at-bat.

A grand slam.

Mutt Mantle would be so proud.