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Dad Daze: Summing up your children in a word

UPDATED: Sun., April 4, 2021

During a recent chat with a psychologist friend, I was asked how I would describe each of my children. It’s not easy to settle on one word or phrase to break down my kids.

Each is so different, which is what I, an only child, anticipated. My therapist pal said it would be a fun exercise when it’s punctuated with what their vocation should be, and, well, here goes.

The Achiever

My daughter Jillian, 22, is the first-born stereotype. My inveterate writer embraced academia as a high school junior and never took her foot off the gas pedal. When most of her peers lost interest after committing to colleges during their senior year of high school, Jillian continued to score straight A’s.

As a college senior, she has a 3.9 GPA for her career. During her last two semesters, she has a full-course load and has been teaching full time. She also has a troika of clients, a pair of musicians and a comedian, in which she toils as an independent publicist.

I asked her about dating or her lack of it, and Jillian crushed me with this response: “I have the whole rest of my life for that. Right now, if I was involved with a guy, it would be a distraction.

“I’ve seen people drop out of school or get bad grades when they lost focus due to who they’re going out with. I want to graduate with the best GPA possible, and I hope to get a job in my field when I get out of school. With the pandemic, it’s going to be more competitive than ever. I’m going to be ready for what’s next.”

There’s no doubt about that. I have all the confidence in the world in my daughter.

Vocation: Writer. “I will never be a journalist,” Jillian said. “I don’t want to be you or have your type of lifestyle.” Ouch! Jillian is hell-bent on a life in music management or publicity.

The Narcissist

Eddie, 18, could never be a vampire. I’ve never seen anyone, male or female, stare in the mirror as much as Eddie. All of my children except him hate having their picture taken. “I feel bad for whomever he marries,” Jillian said. “I don’t know if he could love anyone more than himself.”

Eddie might take more selfies than Kim Kardashian. What’s worse is that he scrutinizes the image and then fires away at himself again. And then there are Eddie’s showers, which are epic. Eddie is the quiet narcissist. You never know what’s on his mind.

“Yeah,” is a soliloquy for the college freshman. “You shouldn’t complain about Eddie,” Jillian said. “Remember how he was when he was a kid?” Eddie flipped out at times, but he now has a quiet confidence, especially when he’s pitching – and when he’s in front of a camera or mirror.

Vocation: News anchor. When I worked in broadcast news, I met so many folks like Eddie. When I asked him about such a career, he paused thoughtfully and said, “Yeah, back to you, Dad.”

The Angler

It’s always been risky business for Milo, 15, who doesn’t think he’ll ever get caught and doesn’t seem to mind if he gets captured. Halfway through the film “Catch Me If You Can,” which was inspired by the life of former con artist Frank Abagnale portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Eddie said, “That’s Milo.”

I learned that Milo didn’t do a lick of homework in the third grade. His classmates gave him their homework passes. I asked his teacher how the passes were transferable, and I cut her off mid-sentence when she explained. It was absurd.

I asked Milo why he was so up and down in the fifth grade. “Because it doesn’t matter, Daddy,” Milo explained. “It’s kinda like spring training. When the Yankees play the Blue Jays in March, they post a score, but nobody remembers it. That’s what grades are like in fifth grade. Do you think someone is going to look at these grades when I’m applying to colleges? No way!”

When schools went virtual last year, Milo started to tank like he was the general manager of an NBA team. When I caught on, I asked for an explanation. “They’re going to look back at this year as the COVID year,” Milo said. “Anyone who gets bad grades will get a pass.”

I explained that there is no certainty that’s true. Milo appears to have turned a corner, but I’m always waiting for the old Milo to pop out and speed up my aging process.

Vocation: Attorney or convicted embezzler. As much as I see Milo as a potential lawyer, since he’s always arguing an impossible case, I worry that he’s going to pull an Abagnale. As much as I enjoyed “Catch Me If You Can,” I don’t want a son who lives that life even though it all turned out fine in the end for the protagonist.

The Academic

During elementary school, each of my first three children spun their wheels at some point during the year, but not Jane. My 11-year-old recently told me that she was having trouble with math. I get it. Math is my kryptonite. Math is her worst grade with a 94. Jane reads book after book and up until our Hawaii trip had perfect attendance, which I’ve always believed is overrated.

Also, my sixth-grader’s teacher was fine with her missing a day or two. “If anyone deserves time off in Hawaii, it’s Jane.” Jane also writes each night. When she told me that she was 20 pages into a novel, I was worried that it was going to approximate the “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” line ad nauseum a la “The Shining.”

That’s not so at all. Jane is writing about a brother and sister who are rudderless after a hurricane rips through their city, New Orleans. Their dad dies on page 5. It figures. Jane’s a joy. She’s our only child that doesn’t have ADD. It’s always been fascinating watching her knock out her homework with so much cacophony around her.

Hats off to her since she doesn’t have as many opportunities as her older siblings, who have usurped so much time with their activities. Jane has always been an excellent observer. But that’s often the case for those buried in birth order. They also tend to be scrappers.

It’s not surprising that Jane can box out boys playing basketball and deal with contact since Milo has banged her around for much of her life. One of her teachers once asked Jane what it’s like having Milo as a brother. “Milo makes me stronger,” Jane said.

Vocation: A writer. I’m not trying to push my career on my children. Jane would be swimming downstream if she decides to work with words.

This was a fascinating exercise any parent should take part in since it’s fun and revealing to dissect your children, who are always endlessly fascinating.

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