How Not to Parent 101: Lesson 12 — The Dad Takeover
By AnyManAmongUs

One Saturday not long ago, my 5-year old daughter Sally got it into her head to put on a play called 'The Princess and the Duke'. Before I knew what it was about, I was urging advice upon her. Turns out, the one who needed advice was me.

How Not to Parent 101: Lesson 12 — The Dad Takeover


If I know anything, it's how things ought to work. And I'm always ready to teach it to the kids.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the subject of the lesson.

Editor’s note: For many of us dads, letting kids do things in their own way, at their own speed, is, shall we say, an acquired virtue. Here’s one guy who was still in the early stages of acquisition:

One Saturday not long ago, my 5-year old daughter Sally got it into her head to put on a play called The Princess and the Duke. Before I knew it, or knew why, I found myself offering her advice — lots of it, and at no charge.

“Is that really what the Duke’s going to wear?” I asked, pointing to her three-year old brother Sam. “His clown suit and red pants and a Pittsburgh Pirates cap?”

“Yes. He’s a duke and a clown.”

“Fine,” I managed to rein myself in. “You’re the boss.”

I now noticed she’d mobilized her dolls to serve as extras in the production. Barbie had changed into her wedding gown. Her demented cousin, obtained at a yard sale for a nickel and known around our house — for the odd tufts of short reddish hair dotting her small head — as Chemo Barbie, was, as usual, not only nude, but spread-eagle.

“Who’s Chemo Barbie playing?”

Wrong question: ‘Why don’t we make a movie instead?’

“The queen, my mother.”

“Sally,” I offered, “I have an idea. Just a suggestion. Why don’t we make a movie instead? We could shoot scenes in different rooms, and that way we’ll also have a record of it.“

“Could we do some of it outside?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“That’ll be great!”

Two minutes later, the “camera” was at the ready. “Okay. Now, Sally, before you begin acting, it would probably be a good idea to explain what’s going to happen. That way, the audience will understand it better.”


“Good. Ready?”


She was sitting demurely on a little chair, which she’d set before her playhouse. “Okay. Lights. Camera. Action!”

She sat there, staring.

“We’re shooting, darling. Go ahead.”

She stood, walked slowly across the room, picked up a drawing she’d been working on the previous evening and studied it. The duke wandered over beside her.

“Cut!” I snapped off the video function. “Kids, you’ve got to do something. What’s the story about?”

“I don’t know,” replied Sally testily. “I’m thinking.”

“Listen, maybe what we ought to do is write it down. We’ll write what’s going to happen in each scene and then we can film them one at a time. All right?”


“Well, why don’t we have you sitting in front of the castle, and then Sammy, the Duke, will come by, and you can ask his permission to go inside. That’ll be the first scene.”

“No, I don’t like that. Anyway, I want Little Leon to play the Duke.” Little Leon was another of her odder dolls, a rubber being with a vacant stare and a realistic penis.

“Maybe that’s not a bad idea,” I agreed. “Maybe we should just let Sam do the stuff he likes to do, like throw balls or look at books, and make that part of the story.”

To this she made no reply.

“Anyway, darling, the important thing is to decide what’s going to happen. We haven’t written down a single thing yet.”



“I think I want to color instead.”