Friday, February 29, 2008

Indirect Wedding Preparation Week

It would be easy to look at this week in For Better or For Worse and say, "Nothing happened this week." But what did we really have?

1. Deanna finds Grandma Marian's old dress in a crawl space and plans to take it to a dry cleaner and then put it in a box with a window. The natural conclusion to draw from this is that Deanna has gone mental and developed a strange obsession with wedding dresses. However, what we have instead is what has become a hallmark of why this strip is no longer of the same quality it once was. Lynn Johnston seems to have forgotten, "It's not the destination but the journey itself that's important." Just as she sets up strips in order to get to the desired punchline, she is also setting up aspects of Liz's wedding without considering the way to get there.

Case in point: The wedding dress. We want Elizabeth to have a wedding dress that is just as special as Deanna's wedding dress, except it can't have the taint of money about it. How that can happen is if the dress is an heirloom from an older character. There is no female character more revered than Grandma Marian, so she is the obvious choice. However, she got married just after the end of World War II, which means her wedding dress is over 60 years old. Straightaway, I am thinking there are going to be issues with dress preservation, and I don't even have to think hard about it. Anyone who has gone to a museum and seen old war uniforms or old dresses can tell immediately how fragile the material is. In order to Liz to wear Grandma Marian's old dress, someone would already have to have gone through the effort of preserving the dress with this expectation. I don't see anything wrong with the idea that Marian preserved the dress for Elly to wear and then Elly preserved it for Liz or April to wear. That way it gets worn, and there is not going to be any question about why Deanna didn't wear it. It's not Deanna's grandmother, after all.

However, someone got the idea that since the new focus of today's For Better or For Worse is Mike and Deanna, somehow they have to be included in the whole thing. And so we end up with this bizarre crawl space discovery sequence, which would have made a lot more sense if Deanna had been left out.

2. Rudy Dodd and Candace Halloran go to visit Elizabeth Patterson. Then the 3 of them try to talk about how wonderful their relationships are. Ultimately, Elizabeth shoos Rudy and Candace out of her apartment, and gives us every indication that they dropped in unexpectedly when she was trying to get work done for her job. The natural conclusion to draw from this is that Elizabeth was an excellent put-upon hostess and her friends need to call before they come over.

However, what we really had here was Lynn Johnston spending 3 strips reminding us who Candace and Rudy are and that they know Liz. So, later on, when they show up at her wedding or perhaps participating in her wedding, you can remember Rudy, who prior to this point had not had any part of the strip for the last 4 years. Lynn Johnston actually does not do that good a job with this, because not even once are we reminded that Rudy and Candace are old friends from her university days.

So there you have it. The week of nothing could be easily summarized as:

a. Elizabeth's wedding dress has family sentimental value.
b. These two in the wedding party are named Candace and Rudy

Join us next week when:

a. Mike and Deanna have a visit with Josef Weeder where we are reminded that he has taken pictures of weddings before.
b. Elly is cleaning her house and uncovers a series of bridesmaid dresses, still in perfect condition.
c. Elizabeth visits Lawrence Poirier who reveals that he has a side business of providing flowers at weddings.
d. Anthony Caine looks in a crawl space and discovers he has male friends there, who have been missing for 20 years, but are greatly excited about being in Anthony's wedding party, after a dry cleaner spruces them up a bit.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Shiimsa’s Return

We have a few things happen in today’s For Better or For Worse of note:

1. Shiimsa, the little animal friends, which occasionally bears a resemblance to a cat (panel 1 of today’s strip is not bad, but definitely not cat-like in panels 3 and 4), makes her reappearance today, having last appeared on August 23, 2007.

2. Elizabeth continues her trend of looking like Mike in every single panel. Although Mike has very feminine features, the big difference in this case is that Elizabeth’s bun is usually more pronounced and has more hair attached to it, relative to the size of her head. This subdued bun in combination with the broadly drawn shoulders and nearly nonexistent breasts is what is doing it. Lynn should put some big, old Patterson hips on Liz and eliminate this gender ambiguity.

3. Lynn Johnston shows that she was aware The Transformers movie was a huge money-maker last year. However, she does show that she does not what Transformers are, i.e. tagline “Robots in disguise”. Instead we get “goofy monster thing” from Rudy. Sorry Lynn, but assuming Rudy is Elizabeth’s age, meaning born in 1981 and the fact that the Transformers first generation toy line was from 1984 – 1993, unless the boy was living in a vacuum, he would know what Transformers are. I was born in 1962 and have never played with a Transformer, and I know The Transformers advertising tagline.

Let me see if I can make sense out of Rudy’s argument. Candace says they just sort of click, meaning they fit well or function well together.

Rudy compares his relationship to the “click” sound to the sound someone makes when changing a Transformer into a car. He then elaborates and says the way Candace and Rudy figure each other out is what he is referencing. In other words, Candace and Rudy figure each other out the same way someone figures out how to change a Transformer around. I think he means the number of clicks to indicate the relative ease of this figuring out stuff. That actually makes sense to me.

Candace instead goes off on his choice of comparison. I have been around people like this before. Even if you are trying to say something positive, they latch onto a word or phrase, interpret it negatively and will not let it go. I don’t think Rudy actually needs to put his foot in his mouth because of what he said. However, I can believe that Rudy has learned over a period of time, that it might take this kind of effort at humourous self-abasement to get Candace off the subject before the conversation turns ugly.

Two strips into Rudy and Candace together and I can see that their relationship is struggling. We have had two times in a row, where someone says something which Rudy feels the need to elaborate into a public example about how good his relationship with Candace is. Doing it once is OK. Doing it 2 times means Rudy is trying to show off for Elizabeth. To know what the problem is in the relationship, I can look right at the last panel of today’s and yesterday’s strips. Rudy can’t say anything without Candace challenging it, what Rudy calls “psycho-analysis”. It’s not really psycho-analysis so much as harping on Rudy’s choice for an example. However, the fact that Rudy uses the phrase “psycho-analysis” means that this bantering with Candace must frequently take the form of psycho-analysis.

I think Lynn is trying to go for a goofy guy who doesn’t say everything right. I could probably go with that, except for the fact I can follow Rudy’s reasoning. This means I am trying to understand what he saying while Candace is not. I had a girlfriend like this once. She was very pretty, but I had to watch what I said and judge every response and everything I said carefully, because she was inclined to pick on every misstep. Eventually (and I think I have mentioned that I was fairly stupid in my young, single days), I found that when I phrased things as well as I could, she continued the practice to the point of embarrassing herself (i.e. her friends called her on it). And that pretty much ended that relationship.

I don’t think Candace and Rudy are that bad, but at least 2 strips into it, Candace is not giving Rudy a break. This is a change in their relationship from back in 2001 – 2004. I looked back at the best Candace and Rudy dialogue moments in the archive from February, 2003, and there is a big difference in the way they talked then versus today. 8 years ago, they were uncertain about the future of their relationship; but it was obvious how well they got along. Today, they are certain about their relationship; but they are having a hard time getting along with each other in front of an old friend.

Kudos to Lynn Johnston for the excellent character progression of Rudy and Candace.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rudy’s Return

In today’s For Better or For Worse, fortunately Candace Halloran is still recognizable with her never-changing unusual hair; otherwise I would have wondered why Gerald and Michael were having a conversation in Liz’s apartment with this redheaded woman. Rudy only really looks Rudy-like in the final panel, while Liz remains decidedly Mike-like in every single panel including a very Mike reaction shot in the final panel.

My initial excited reaction on seeing the strip would have been the return of the Liz / Anthony relationship for the first time since last December, until I realized that what we really have is the return of Rudy Dodd. Anthony is nowhere in sight, and once again we are forced to envision Liz’s relationship with Anthony based on what she says about it, and not what we actually see. I could also be excited about the return of Liz’s apartment as a sign she is not really living with Anthony as was implied back in December; except Liz has a history of using extra living spaces to conceal her activities.

So, Rudy Dodd’s return is the big news. Rudy Dodd last appeared in August 7, 2005 in one of what used to be a Liz staple of her out with a bunch of friends getting stinking drunk. I note that Rudy appears to be drinking a beer, while Liz is sipping a steaming, hot beverage of “I’m finally mature enough to get married”. Rudy’s actual last spoken line was on May 29, 2004; just before Liz’s graduation.

Rudy’s purpose in life is mainly to provide a boyfriend for Candace who is not threatened by Elizabeth Patterson and her magical ability to attract men out of nowhere. Ergo, Rudy cannot be very good-looking (the Julia effect) and he must be playful and goofy (unlike all of Elizabeth’s other very serious boyfriends). In other words, take Elizabeth’s future husband, and turn him the opposite way and you will get Rudy Dodd. Ideally, Anthony would show up and lend credence to Liz’s assertion that they are taking it slow. However, the most fun would be Anthony meeting with Rudy Dodd, to get the comparison and contrast between Anthony’s personality and Rudy’s.

Make it so, Lynn!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Two Observations

First Observation

I have always found Deanna Patterson to be an interesting character. She is meant to be an imitation of Lynn Johnston, who realized she liked Rod Johnston’s parents more than she liked her own. However, instead of merely liking them better, the woman has indicated on more than one occasion that her admiration borders on crazy obsession.

I have made these observations before:
1. Deanna is the one who first wants to move into Mike’s old home (not Mike).
2. Deanna is the one who wants the kids to be brought up just like Mike was (not Mike).
3. Deanna is the one who wants Mike to quit his paying job so he can work full-time as a writer and take care of the kids.
4. Deanna is the one who went on-and-on praising Elly for buying her wedding dress, while chastising her mother who paid for everything else in her second fake wedding.

And now today, Deanna has found Grandma Marian’s wedding dress and is treating it as if it were a family heirloom. This is despite the fact that Elly did not treat it that way, and her husband is more concerned that his hockey equipment does not get stored back into the crawl space. In other words, Deanna cares more for Grandma Marian’s old things that anyone else in her family. Considering Grandma Marian died in 1999, so Deanna would barely know her, this interest is quite odd. Is Deanna really obsessed with all things Patterson, or is it simply that Deanna has encountered so few really nice things in the house she inherited from Elly and John, she is overwhelmed with emotion at the first really nice thing she has seen?

Second Observation

The artwork this week is starting to bother me. Michael and Deanna’s face and head shape have changed in every panel starting with Monday. It is inconsistent even by the normal Lynn Johnston standard of inconsistent drawing. I have theorized that Laura Piché or someone else could be getting prepared to take this strip over with a spin-off involving Deanna and Michael, and certainly the art would encourage that belief.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Just When You Thought Lynn Had Forgotten About Liz

As soon as the wedding dress showed up, I knew the dress’ ultimate destination was going to be on Elizabeth for her wedding. Now we simply have to get the dress to Elly to get to Elizabeth and then we will be all set. Grandpa Jim can look at Elizabeth in the dress and wax on about how she looks just like Marian did after fending off the Jerries in WWII. Elly can go on about tradition and monetary savings that comes with free dresses. And Elizabeth can take the dress and wave it around in Anthony’s face and say something like, “If you want to see me in this dress, you better get off your butt and propose, buster.”

Meanwhile, the whole idea that this dress could be in a cardboard box stored in a crawlspace for years, with no damage to the dress whatsoever, is almost as ridiculous an idea to me as the one where Michael gets his book contract and a $25K advance from the first publisher he tries. There is a large box in my closet with my wife’s special, vacuum-sealed wedding dress, in the specially-made box guaranteed not to have enough acid in it to cause the dress to turn brown for decades, etc; that we shelled out a small fortune for after we got married, just in case my daughter should happen to want to wear her mother’s wedding dress. Dress preservation is an industry unto itself, and it is obviously an industry that Lynn Johnston has not researched, and probably will not research until she gets complaints from people about this storyline. We are talking about a dress which would have been worn in 1945 or 1946; so it is 61 years old at least.Now, if some of the characters talk about repairing or cleaning the dress, then all is forgiven. However, from the picture in today’s For Better or For Worse, the dress looks perfect just as it is.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Joys of Crawling

I have personally moved into a used house on 2 occasions. The first time was my old bachelor home and I found in an attic an umbrella stroller. On the second occasion, the prior house owner had apparently been a compulsive cleaner as we did not even find any dust in the house anywhere (even in the out-of-the way obscure places).

Obviously, with Sunday’s strip and the slide show ordering and then today’s For Better or For Worse strip with the big bunch of stuff in there, Lynn Johnston is massing the troops for the September “almost all reprints” run. Even if that isn’t the intent, she has still managed to set up Mike and Deanna for the daily reminisces and John, Elly, and April for the Sunday colour reminisces until September.

The more interesting part about this is the view of Deanna in the crawl space. What level of home cleanliness do you have to reach, before you are bored enough to start looking at crawl spaces with the idea of exploring them? When I was little, I probably would have gone into a crawl space; but what would motivate Deanna?

The truth be told, I have always enjoyed exploring obscure parts of a house. My late grandmother's home had a hall closet by her front door which was also the same closet as the one in her bedroom; so if you went far enough into one or the other, you would find yourself facing a door to the way out. I lived in one old house, when I was little, that had put a paneling over the real wall, so you could go into a set of built-in cabinets open on one side and crawl through to other built-in cabinets in the same room. It was like magic. And if the house was new to us, anything found I could claim as my own, since the prior owners had left. That was the best part.

So, in today's For Better or For Worse, when Deanna pulls all of these boxes out of the crawl space and tells Michael it is not "junk" but "ours", my initial thought was not that Deanna was lecturing Mike on the definition of junk, but that Deanna had laid a claim to her booty, her bounty of having explored the deeper recesses of the house. She had found treasure. I am pretty sure that this was not the interpretation for which Lynn Johnston was headed; but my inner child enjoyed it all the same.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Home Slide Snooze

It has been a long time since I have seen a slide show done in someone's home showing their vacation. I think the last one I saw was in my uncle's house in Iowa, back when I was in 5th grade, so that would have been about 1973, I think. My uncle had gone on a vacation somewhere, and he pulled out the carousels and the slides of the vacation and proceded to put me into a stupor. I cannot imagine how dull an Elly and John slideshow would be.

Since, the last time I sat down to see someone's vacation it was recorded on a videocamera and that was back in 1993, I think. It was memorable to me, because the couple had gone to Germany, and visited one of those beaches where you can wear a lot less clothing, and the wife of the couple showing us the video did not realize that there were pictures of her wearing next to nothing. Her embarrassment made the rest of the video showing interesting.

However, even though today's For Better or For Worse technically shows the age of the author, what is even more telling are the organizational schemes being proposed by John and Elly. Picture-taking is usually event-oriented. In the panel that says "Your Graduation, Our trip to Mexico, Michael's First Birthday, etc." that makes sense. What makes less sense is arranging the pictures by people, unless John and Elly made it a point to take model shots of the people they knew over time. Otherwise you end up in situations like, "Here's a picture of Liz at Michael's fst birthday. Should that be in Michael's first birthday stack or in the Elizabeth stack?" It makes me wonder if Lynn Johnston has ever actually organized her slides.

Ultimately, it does not make any difference, because they are only means to get to the final punch line, "get our lives in order." And that is funny because...

Is Michael Really This Stupid?

That is the question I had to ask myself as I saw today’s For Better or For Worse. The idea is that Michael is tired of his kids’ fighting and has proposed moving them each in to their own room in order to stop it. Then they end up sleeping in the same bed and ruining Mike’s theory.

But the question that came to me was: After spending most of your childhood fighting with your sister, how could you ever come up with an idea as ridiculous as “Getting your own room means you will stop fighting”, Michael?

By the way, my kids at those ages would never, ever have been able to sleep in the same bed together. They are little whirling dervishes as they sleep with arms and legs going in all kinds of directions and with covers knocked off them and off the bed. My kids are a lot better about sleeping a bed with someone else there now than they were back when they were Meredith and Robin’s age; but even today, when we take trips, and I have to share a bed with my son, I fear the kicks and slaps I will be receiving throughout the evening.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chicago Article

Lynn Johnston has a new article out with the Chicago Tribune. I will comment on any part that is new to me.

And in April 2007, her 32-year marriage fell apart, leaving her to face a retirement without her husband.
I notice this time the husband is left nameless, which leaves us to wonder if it was Rod Johnston or imaginary husband John Patterson. If Lynn said her line about John Patterson again to the Chicago Tribune, perhaps they had the good taste to leave it out.

She decided to devote more time and space to the present-day story than she had planned, though still running some old ones.
From this I gather that even though Lynn originally started going every other month with new vs. reprint material, her original plan had been to have much more reprint material.

As of now, readers are seeing present-day strips on some days, and old strips -- some from as far back as 28 years ago -- on other days.
“As of now” is accurate, since the every other month style was what she did before January.

For example, a letter to the editor published Feb. 12 in the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat said: "Has anyone else questioned the differences in the drawing of the comic strip 'For Better or For Worse'? Every few days it looks as if someone completely different from Lynn Johnston is doing the drawing, and I don't recognize the characters."
Therein lies the whole problem with the hybrid method, and succinctly put.

Johnston has not been happy either. "I wasn't that comfortable with it," she says. So she made the decision to pursue this new course.
I had gotten the impression from prior interviews, that the syndicate was the one pushing the reprint from the beginning idea, but here Lynn Johnston takes credit for it.

"Now that I look back at the material that is going to run again, I see some significant areas that I want to work on -- the day that Michael discovers that he has a crush on Deanna in elementary school, for example," she says.
Here is a clear example of where Lynn is going to make alterations to the original storyline to make what follows even more dramatic. As I recollect the original Deanna strips, she did not really have that many with Michael before she mysteriously disappeared. Lynn has apparently looked at the material and has come to the same conclusion. My guess is she has decided to make it more substantial, probably to make it seem more like a logical choice for Mike to fall back in love when Mike meets Deanna again in university after her car wreck. When I look over the car wreck storyline on-line, Mike falls for Deanna almost immediately after visiting her in the hospital, and a stronger storyline from his youth would allow this move to make more sense, considering Mike was dating long time girlfriend Rhetta Blum at the time.

If the reaction to the current form is any indication, the figures back her up. The strip, which runs in about 2,000 newspapers, has had about a dozen cancellations since July, but eight new clients signed on in that time, according to Kathie Kerr, a spokeswoman for Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes the strip.
Since Syndicates often buy and sell strips in packages, these statistics do not mean a lot to me.

"The work that I'm doing now is very structured," she says. "The characters are much more realistic. I draw every brick on a building. The way I used to draw was much more fluid and easygoing and big expressions and lots of slapstick. ... I would like to go back to that, and I think I can."
This is kind of a slap in the face to Laura Piché who is the one who actually draws those bricks as the background artist. If Lynn truly went back to her old style, then it would be a style with almost no background art. I would feel sorry for Laura, except that I have already seen the “old-style Lynn” artwork and it is my belief that it is really Laura Piché and not Lynn Johnston doing it. I feel bad that Laura will not get credit for it, but it is still a common practise in the comic strip industry to not give credit.

When it comes right down to it, Johnston cannot bring herself to let go of the strip. "I do want to continue," she said. "It is a joy for me. I love this work."
This is very true. And to be honest, even if Rod Johnston had not cheated leading to the divorce, I think this would have been a real issue for Lynn and her retirement plans. It seemed clear to me in the year or so before her originally-predicted September, 2007 retirement date, she had not planned the sequence of stories well-enough to finish in September.

Does Johnston envision a time when she will be completely retired?"I think if I was ill, yeah," she said. "I think if I was really not healthy and couldn't concentrate and couldn't draw, I think that would be the case."But Johnston does plan to say goodbye to her readers when she ends the present-day story. "There will be some printed material the day following the strip's story line ... ending," she said.
"I don't know exactly word for word, or I'd have it all written out in front of me. But I know what I want to say after all this time. I want to give a special message to everybody from me personally and thank the people that I've worked with and segue into the beginning again."

Obviously she is not thinking about the Sunday strips, but it may be too far away in time for her to do that. Nevertheless, we have the news that the modern day ending will be easy to see.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Straightening Out the Rooms

I will have to admit the room situation with the Patterson has me confused. As you go up the stairs in the Patterson house there are 2 small rooms on the left (L1 and L2), and one big room on the right (R1) with the ensuite bathroom with no shower. After it on the right is the bathroom with the shower, used by the people who occupy the upstairs.

In the summer of 2006, April lives upstairs by herself in R1 and L1 was the guest bedroom/sewing room. When Liz moved in September of 2006, she occupied L2. When Mike’s family arrived on Christmas, 2006; Mike and Deanna took over R1, Meredith and Robin took over L1 and Liz remained in L2. April moved to the Rec Room.

The next part is where it gets tricky. The monthly letters say that after Elly, John and April moved out; Mike and Deanna intended to stay in R1 to be next to the kids.

We know the bump beds are moved into L2, and so we know that this is where Meredith is staying. It would make sense therefore, for Robin to stay in L1 because Meredith’s old bed is already set up in there. However, this leaves a few questions:

The Daily Savings strip seems to think that Robin is in L1 and Merrie is in L2 already. Robin’s run in the hall clearly shows this.

In today’s For Better or For Worse, a ceiling fan shows up literally out of nowhere, never before seen in either L1 or L2. Also, why would Robin have to become accustomed to sleeping in L1, a room where he has been sleeping since Christmas, 2006? Aside from Deanna’s redecorating, the only real difference for Robin is sleeping in Meredith’s old bed, where he has been shown to sleep before.

Obviously the author has not thought this stuff through and is counting on people like me to be few and far between. Instead we are in a “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” moment.

I remember when we moved to Arizona and my kids had a choice between 2 same-sized rooms to decide which one would be theirs. They were 2 and 4 years old at the time. They were so excited to have that choice, and I was frankly, quite amazed when they came to a consensus without any struggle. When they finally moved in and had all their stuff from Texas in there, do you know what they did not say?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lunar Eclipse

I watched the lunar eclipse with my kids tonight. It was kind of fun for them to be at the age where they can see the eclipse and understand what is causing it. My daughter in particular was quite raucous as she cheered on the shadow to completely cover the light of the moon.

My daughter is the social butterfly of my two children. The unfortunate side-effect of my son’s Asperger Syndrome is that he has no close friends. He has never had anyone invite him for a sleepover and birthday party invitations are few and far between.

The same cannot be said of my daughter. She has her best friend she met in kindergarten, and she was almost immediately invited for sleepovers. However, for the first year or so, when she would attempt a sleepover, there was a certain point in the evening when something would unnerve her, and we would get a call from her saying she wanted to go home to sleep in her own bed. It was interesting to us, because there was no fighting or any kind of altercation between her and her best friend. The only thing to it was that she was 5 years old, and she had never really slept away from home without a relative being there. Eventually, she had a night where she did actually stay the night, and she’s never looked back. This past summer, she and her best friend switched off spending the night at each other’s house for 5 nights in a row. That may seem like an appalling number of nights; but it should be mentioned that the two girls are extremely well-behaved when they are together (almost like little Stepford kids) and so there is no good reason not to allow it.

In today’s For Better or For Worse, little Meredith gets her bump bed, and her mother has explained one of the purposes is so she can invite people to sleep over. Meredith wastes no time getting to it with what appears to be her own cell phone. My kids don’t have their own cell phone, and frankly, I can’t imagine giving a 5-year-old girl a cell phone, although I know parents who do.

The part I find the most interesting is that after 5 years in this strip, Meredith has never been shown playing with any other children her age ever that I can remember not even at birthday parties (not counting parties occurring in the monthly letters). Then when she is given the opportunity to do so, she is so fast with trying to set it up, it makes me think that maybe my perception of her not being around same-aged friends represents reality and is not simply an artifact of the insular story-telling style of this strip (in the same fashion that we have never seen Anthony Caine’s parents, but know that they must exist.)

The other part that makes this odd, is that Lynn Johnston did not do this with Elly’s children. Michael had Lawrence for a friend in the first year of the strip, and likewise Elizabeth and April all had neighbourhood kids for friends very early on. The advent of Karina (assuming we get to see her) may be Lynn Johnston trying to establish a “Lawrence” for Meredith. Karina is the name of a Peruvian pop star, and it will be interesting to see if the For Better or For Worse version falls in the same vein as almost all of April’s friends, where they have to have been born in other countries than Canada.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Goodbye Hugs

When you are a little kid, good-byes are a sad, but great time, because there is no stigma involved with a kid hugging someone, as there can be when people grow up.

One of the nicer parts of the little Francie sequence of strips is that little Francie hugs and gets hugged a lot. She hugs Anthony to protect her from Liz. She hugs on Thérèse to get her sympathy. And of course, she hugs on Liz when Thérèse leaves.

In today’s For Better or For Worse, little Robin hugs his crib good-bye. It is, once again, something I have never seen a kid do. However, it made me wonder how long it has been since Robin hugged someone (and not just had his arms around someone who happened to be carrying him). This proved to be a fascinating exercise. As I was going backward in time through the archives, I noticed a number of hugs between the characters for almost any reason. Mike and Deanna even hugged each other.

But that Robin or Merrie hug which was a hug and not a carry eluded me until I got to March 20, 2007 and April hugged Robin as a part of playing with him. This lack of hugs with Merrie and Robin, as it turns out, is a side-effect of Lynn Johnston playing the two kids as rotten brats almost every time they make an appearance together. You don’t get a real feel for this until you go back in those archives and look at every single Robin and Merrie appearance. Then it really sinks in. Robin and Merrie’s relationship with adults is mostly being guided by the shoulders after having done something rotten.

As for sentimentality over inanimate objects, I remember very well when I had to say good-bye to my first car, a 1984 Toyota Celica hatchback with a rear window defrost and windshield wiper. It was the first and only car I have ever owned new. It carried me through my entire single life and through many years of my married life and finally met a tragic end when it developed a severe transmission fluid leak on the ride to work which cause it to catch on fire (nothing majour). I was genuinely sad to see that car go. I had had some great times in it.

My crib I could have cared less about.

Keeping Up With the Caines

I can’t help but to think that Michael Patterson’s selection of a bunk bed for Meredith in today's For Better or For Worse is because he has heard that little Francie has a bunk bed too. I suppose we could consider this to be more proof that Lynn Johnston thinks of Meredith as the same age as Francie; however, the drawing of the bunk bed set my mind whirling and I had to look at several on-line pictures of bunk beds to convince myself that this bizarre bed structure was not actually a bunk bed, where one bed is “bunked” on top of the other. In fact, it appears that what we have is a loft bed with another bed pushed in underneath it into an L-angle. Usually, the bunk beds are for space-saving. With this bed combination, that advantage is lost. In Anthony Caine/Francie strips, Lynn drew an actual bunk bed, so I don’t know where she got the idea for this one.

As I predicted, Lynn Johnston’s story does not match the one from my family. My daughter, when she was Meredith’s age, wanted a pink canopy bed and at age 5 started to get particular about the way she wanted things decorated. I am surprised that Meredith is expressing no opinion about it, except to ask her father if this is the bed he wanted.

My sisters had bunk beds when they were growing up, since they shared a room. The phrase “bump bed” is one I have never heard of before, and certainly not one my sisters would have used, since they were both short enough so they could sit on their bed and not hit their heads. I would imagine only grown-ups would have the problem bumping her head demonstrated by Deanna Patterson (apparently her only purpose in this strip, since she expresses no opinion whatsoever on the choice of bed). However, the pun is obvious enough that someone somewhere has probably used it.

Now, if I had to make a prediction about what is going to happen next, considering we are almost assuredly going to lead into next week’s strip reprint of the 1979 Pattersons all lying on a bed in the furniture store, I would say that Deanna is going to suggest to Mike that they consider buying a new bed for them too. That would keep them in the bed store to the end of the week, depending on how many mattress or bed puns the family can fire off between now and Saturday.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bed-Shopping and Bed-Hopping

I remember very well when my daughter came into the family and it was time to move my son from the crib into his own toddler bed, not like Meredith Patterson’s monster-size bed in the slightest. The toddler bed is low to the ground and uses the same mattress as was used for the crib. My wife had in her mind the type of bed she wanted my son to have for a toddler bed, and so she bought it. I told my wife it was a mistake not to let my son choose his own bed. As it turned out, I was right (which is the whole reason I like to tell this story).

My son refused to sleep in the toddler bed and instead chose to sleep on the floor next to the door. This frustrated my wife to no end, and so began the battle of wills between her and my 2 ½ - year-old son, which lasted for the next 2 years. My son’s bedroom had 2 doors on it, so even though he slept in front of the door, you could go into the room through the other door, and while he was dead asleep, pick him up and move him to the toddler bed. He was a very heavy sleeper. After having done this, invariably in the middle of the night, we would hear a loud “NO!” from his room, and then he would go back to sleeping in front of the door.

The other trick my wife tried was to place all kinds of toys on the floor in front of his door, on the idea that he would find sleeping on the toys so uncomfortable he would choose the bed. Another trick was to take the bed itself and move it right in front of his door. Another trick was to move just the mattress in front of the door. None of these tricks worked.

To be fair to my wife, I should mention that my wife's desperation to get my son to sleep in his bed was that she was convinced his poor behaviour in child care was related to not getting a good rest at night, from sleeping on the floor near the door. As it turned out, the poor behaviour had to do with his Asperger's Syndrome, but we did not know that at the time.

The time came for us to move from Texas to Arizona and we decided it was a good time to get my daughter out of the crib and into my son’s toddler bed and my son into a grown-up bed. So, my son got to pick his own bed this time. (This was primarily a means by which my wife was going to show me once and for all that this was not the reason my son had refused to sleep in the toddler bed for the last 2 years.) To the furniture store we went. He picked out his own bed, and he has been sleeping there ever since.

If in today’s For Better or For Worse, Mike’s story were to be like mine (i.e. the old camera-in-the-house idea), then Meredith would be happy with her new, bed and Robin would refuse to sleep in his because it had sides. All I really know for sure about this week is that it will probably lead in to similar stories about Mike and Lizzie in 1979-80 in the following week. I will ask in advance: aprilp_katje, are there any bed selection stories in the first year collection?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Socker Mike

As I saw today’s Sunday strip of For Better or For Worse, I had a sudden sense of déjà vu. The theme of the strip is virtually identical to the one from last Sunday, where Robin mangles his gloves by whirling them around in circles. This created an odd symmetry which had to be intentionally done by Lynn Johnston to show this “circle of life” theme she has going where, the younger Pattersons fall into the same habits as their father did before them. In other words, if I take the two Sundays back-to-back, I get a “Look at this. Now look at the original.” feeling.

It’s interesting to contrast the 2 strips.

a. Mike’s socks stretching are much more believable than Robin’s winter mittens. I have never seen winter mittens stretch like that, but socks yes, most definitely yes. So, Lynn has taken a story from 1979, and actually writes a new story, which is less believable than the first story.

b. The Peanuts influence. Mike’s dance around with the sock is unmistakably the “Supper Time” dance done by Snoopy, the dog. Robin, on the other hand, stands and swings his mitten and his physical movement is much, more “3-year-old boy”-like. In this case Lynn Johnston has taken a story from 1979 and writes a story which is more believable than the second story.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Michael Defends Those He Abuses

There is a recurring joke among groups that the only people allowed to use insults to that group have to come from that group. For example, a man cannot call a woman the “B” word, but it’s perfectly fine for women to call each other that name. Jane Fonda dropped the “C” word recently on national TV, and I figure it’s only a matter of time before the ladies are bandying about the “C” word to each other, in jovial conversation.

In a similar fashion, there is the family tradition of protection practised by mobsters and also by Pattersons, as it turns out. The stereotype in the old mobster movies was that inside the family you can sanction violence, but outside the family such things led to bloody retribution. In today’s For Better or For Worse, we see the same practise with young Michael Patterson, who declares to Lawrence Poirier that hitting his baby sister is off-limits to everyone except him. The Theme to the Godfather started running through my head as I read it.

This is one of the few times where I can see that the younger Michael character did not transfer to the older Michael character. Later on, when Michael’s family is threatened by the Kelpfroths, he takes action by putting tape on the floor and writing a libelous article about them, while leaving the direct confrontation with the Kelpfroths to Lovey Salzman and Mira Sobinski. I attribute this passivity with years of dealing with a screaming mother. However, the other possibility is that Michael’s threats against Lawrence Poirier only occurred; because he knew that Lawrence was weaker than he was. In other words, he can be aggressive with a lesser opponent, but not so with a greater one.

I note that in the last panel, it looks like Michael’s face is a Laura Piché redraw. I am sure aprilp_katje can check her collections to confirm or deny my suspicion.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Battle of the Foobish Food

One of my favourite stories is the one where my mother was determined to get my sisters to eat spaghetti with onion in the sauce. My sisters steadfastly refused to do it, and unlike me, who never had an occasion where I refused food, going without a meal was not any problem to my sisters. My mother would slice and dice and run the blender on that onion, so it was nearly invisible. But my sisters would check over their spaghetti sauce fastidiously and if they found even the slight transparent something that could be a bit of an onion, they would refuse to eat it. When I asked my mother at an older age why she went through this struggle, she replied, “Because onions are good for you.” That makes about as much sense as anything I suppose.

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Elly Patterson is in the classic struggle between cook and child, that of getting the child to eat their vegetables. It was with great amusement I noticed that carrots showed up, since that seems to be Deanna Patterson’s vegetable of choice. The sequence where the child refuses to eat food on the premise that they are full, but they still want dessert is an old family life parenting joke. I know the theme this week was supposed to be Michael teases Lizzie, because she is cuter than he is; but really the theme of this week is turning out to be strips which use the same old standard jokes about parenting. There is not an original joke in the bunch.

Monday, the boy who can’t decide if he prefers picking on his sister to punishment,
Tuesday, the boy who likes something common instead of his fancy toys to play with,
Wednesday the girl with the inappropriate item on her head,
Thursday, the boy who hates to be cleaned, and
Friday, the boy who wants dessert and not vegetables.
Saturday will probably be along these lines also.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

5 Years Old and Need To Be Pinned to Get Clean

It has been a long time since I washed a kid. I remember the ritual of it. The bath water had to be the right temperature before my kids would agree to get in. My kids liked the bubbles and lot of their favourite toys in the bath with them. They played with the toys and I washed the kids, and occasionally I would have to take a toy out of their hands if it got in the way of the washing. I honestly cannot remember a time when I had to pin them down to clean them and certainly not when they were 5 years old, when the child is getting to the age where they can bathe themselves. I remember my son was obsessed with not getting shampoo in his eyes, and so if he did not get rinsed almost immediately after a shampooing, he would get upset.

When I had to pin a kid was mainly when they were very little. I remember those occasions vividly.

1. Trimming my son’s fingernails in the first 18 months. Baby fingernails are just like little razor blades and if they are not trimmed, they can slice you up. My son hated it and fought it tooth and nail (so to speak). There was no distracting him with toys or any kind of trick like that which worked. We tried them all, and ultimately it boiled down to daddy pinning the baby, while mommy trimmed the nails. It was amazing to me how strong a baby can be when they are fighting something with every ounce of strength they have.
2. Changing my daughter’s diaper. Babies’ back muscles can be quite strong. My daughter loved to arch her back on the changing table, making it virtually impossible to change her diaper because her little bottom would be flying about in the air. My wife did not have the strength to do it, and so I often had to put my muscles to work to unarch that back and get the diaper on as quickly as possible before the exposure to open air caused other things to happen.
3. My daughter in the first 18 months hated car seats and screamed throughout the course of any ride where she had to be in one, no matter how many times we adjusted the straps. She did not like being held down, like car seats do. My wife and I started to do anything we could do to avoid traveling with her in the car.

Eventually my kids grew out of those stages; but in today's For Better or For Worse we have Elly Patterson scrubbing at her son like she was giving a dog a bath. The part I find interesting is that Michael’s complaints have less to do with the idea of being clean and more to do with Elly’s techniques. His comment about water in his ears, for example, doesn’t say he prefers his ears to be dirty, but doesn’t like water in his ears. This a stark contrast to a boyhood character getting a bath like Dennis the Menace or a Tom Sawyer, where the idea of a bath almost always led to something like having to dress up in uncomfortable clothes or go to church, which was their main area of complaint.

Another point from my real life. My daughter prefers me to brush her hair. My wife does it the brutal way, where she drags the brush through the tangles and pulls them out by brute force. I always hated that when I was a kid, so when I brush her hair, I try to work the tangles out without having to pull her hair away from her scalp to do it. It takes longer, but my daughter likes it a lot better.

Like my wife, who prefers her method of brushing for its speed, Elly Patterson ignores Mike’s protests about how she washes him and continues on under the premise that she has to do it that way because he is dirty and she is unwilling to consider an alternative. This is pretty typical of Elly, whom we will later see has only one way to load a dishwasher and one way to fold laundry. She even stuck by her sheet-shaving when Mike, Dee and Elizabeth mocked her for doing it.

Hey, Elly! You don’t have to be brutal to scrub a kid. I used to simply say things like, “Let me see your arm” to my kids just before I washed their arms. If your kid is crying out in pain at age 5 when you wash him, then maybe it's not that he is a whiner, but he really is in pain.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Porta Potty Humour

I thought Elizabeth was still in a crawling stage in 1979, and here she is in today’s For Better or For Worse strip, walking about with a potty on her head that looks like a cooking pot. The unsteady walk says she might be a little over a year old. If that is the case, then she is way too young to begin potty-training.

I remember the potty-training nightmare in our house. My son was in a daycare facility in Texas. You “graduated” from different areas to move to the next class, if you met certain developmental criteria. All during the early stages of parenting, my wife and I got the big message from the parenting books, “Don’t push your child into potty training, or you will traumatize them for life.” So we were determined to let things flow naturally so to speak. Then we got to the 2-year-old classroom, where you couldn’t go to the next level unless you were potty-trained. The teachers of the class started putting pressure on us to get my son potty-trained because they wanted him to move up to the next level, i.e. they were tired of dealing with him. It was a very stressful time, trying to not to pressure my son, and yet getting all this pressure from others.

So, I can’t imagine what Elly must be going through to get this pressure from her mom, when Elizabeth has to be barely one year old. That’s ridiculously early, and yet I know, from hearing and seeing other parents operate, there are parents who really do start toilet-training their children the moment they started walking.

As for walking with their training potty on their head, let me think if my kids were strong enough to hoist that thing up over their head at that age? The answer to that is no.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Remember Fred

Back when I was in 8th grade, I did a comic strip for the school newspaper called “Fred”. In one particular strip, I remember Fred and his group of friends were sitting around discussing what it was they collected. One boy said, “Stamps”, another boy said, “Comic books”, another boy said, “Coins”. Then someone asked Fred what he collected and Fred replied, “Dust.”

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Michael Patterson’s punch line of “Dirt” in response to what more he wanted reminded me a lot of my old Fred comic strip. The execution and set up are similar with dialogue leading to a final panel punch line. The difference is that I think my comic strip I wrote when I was 13 was funnier.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Teasing Lizzie - The Week of

Today’s For Better or For Worse begins a series of “Michael teasing Lizzie” strips and falls into the category of “word play my kids would know better than to ever do with me”. When a parent is furious with you, most kids have the good sense to be quiet or deny culpability. Michael Patterson, however, is so unused to being punished with anything harsh, in the face of his mother’s parental anger, he actually raises the issue of whether or not the punishment he might receive from his mother, would be so light as to make it worth his while to continue to experience his pleasure in teasing his sister by pulling her hairs.

My son, with his Asperger’s Syndrome, used to do something very much like this. He was unable to read people’s emotions very well, so the usual things that parents do, like grabbing your misbehaving child by the shoulder and giving him the evil eye so they understand that you are unhappy with him, did not work with him. Elly’s question of “Are you going to stop teasing Lizzie, or am I going to have to punish you?” is a question that my son might try to think about. At age 5 however, he would not have understood so complex a question.

I don’t think Lynn Johnston is trying to portray Michael in 1979 as having Asperger’s Syndrome, so what comes off is a Michael who clearly has no fear of or respect for his mother’s anger. His question seems to be a genuine question as to what kind of punishment she has planned, so he can make his decision based on the facts of the matter. The humour is either that Elly doesn’t realize until this point how literal-minded her son is or that she is surprised at how indifferent he is to a punishment she might give.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Snow Business for Women

There have been a number of strips over the years in For Better or For Worse with kids in the snow, and one of the things that has always struck me is that when the kids are out playing in the snow, the adult women are not there. It is always the adult men out with the kids. Even today’s strip, Deanna dresses the children to send them out into the snow, but not to go out in the snow herself.

The only indication that I can think of which gives a clue to the way Lynn Johnston thinks about this is this strip from back in 2003, where the young April doesn’t want to go out and play in the snow because it is “so for kids” and then John Patterson goes out by himself. Taken this way, either the men are in the snow with the kids, because they are just kids themselves, or because they don’t mind the embarrassment of doing kid things. I would suppose it would be sort of like taking my daughter or son to see a kids’ movie in the theatres, which I would otherwise never have gone to see. I can take the shame and embarrassment of it, because I am doing my parental duty to my kids.

Another interesting perspective was that of Elly Patterson in this strip, where she remembers how John Patterson used to play in the snow with his kids and watching it made Elly fall into love with John all over again. John, of course, stops watching from the inside, and goes outside to play. That strip gave me the idea that going out with the kids in the snow is something that Elly would not do. Is there a maturity level that women reach that says, “I am too old to be playing in the snow"?

That’s too bad if there is. It’s fun to play in the snow with kids.


In today’s For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston revealed the word which I am sure in her mind defines all this, what I call this “circle of life” stuff, with Mike and family becoming like John and family. That word is karma.

What we have seen this week has actually been nothing more than the amazing transformation of Michael Patterson into a dad. While his parenting skills leave much to be desired, nevertheless, aside from calling Deanna up about an extra peeler (which he presumably found), he operated completely on his own with the kids.

The lack of details about the chronological order of this sequence has been maddening. Is Meredith in kindergarten? Does Robin still have a sitter? We have been told that is the case in prior strips. And yet, there is no mention of either. Michael’s comment on Monday about how Meredith had just had lunch, would lead me to believe that Michael was the one who gave her lunch. If she had a lunch which Michael did not witness, then it would be reasonable to presume she was hungry.

The sequence of strips takes us all the way to bedtime, but there is no means by which to gauge the passing of time. All we know for sure is that the kids were tired enough to sleep when they were put to bed, and they did so before Deanna got home from work, without her complaining about them going to bed too early.

Where Deanna is not mentioned specifically. In the past, Deanna’s pharmacy work was such that she was expected to drive after work from Milborough to Toronto and pick up the kids, while Michael worked late every night. I infer from this that Deanna did not work late, in general. On this occasion, it appears she has. And since neither Mike nor Deanna make a mention of it, you could draw the conclusion that this is a regular occurrence.

At the end of it all is Michael suggesting a significant change in his son’s life, to which Deanna simply agrees. This is a ground-breaking moment. If I am reading this strip sequence purely for what it is, Michael Patterson has taken over the role of taking care of his children during the day.

Michael Patterson. After 5+ years, welcome to fatherhood.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Power of T.V.

Today’s For Better or For Worse did dumbfound me. Did Michael Patterson actually expect that he could take his kids to their bedroom and tell them to go to bed, and while he went back to his reading; they would just do it? When my kids were 3 and 5 years old, they wouldn’t do that. My kids are 10 and 12 now, and they really have only gotten to the point of putting themselves to bed without a long bedtime ritual just in the last few years.

Is it wrong of me to actually be charmed by Meredith’s creative rhyming? Is it wrong for me to look at Robin towering over the side of his crib, and wonder why in the world he is still sleeping there? Is it wrong for me to wonder why Mike is holding the T.V.-watching ransom, when he probably could have gotten the kids to stop fighting using the T.V.? Is it wrong for me to look at Mike handling his kids with an egg timer and think to myself, can it be that Lynn Johnston is actually showing that Michael Patterson is a more competent parent than his wife Deanna?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Putting Kids to Bed Early

In today's For Better or For Worse, Michael Patterson gives up trying with his kids and decides to put them to bed early. The poor schmuck! I remember trying this technique on my kids. It never worked. The moment your back is turned they are stepping out of their room for something. Then you end up having to enforce it by guarding their door. That kind of defeats the purpose. The only time I ever remember it working was when my kids were cranky because they genuinely were tired, and did not have the wherewithal to put themselves to bed.

There is a certain age when that happens. Now, when the kids were very little, they would get cranky and shortly thereafter pass out wherever it was they were. My son would face plant in his food, or fall asleep on a toy, or fall asleep in very unusual sitting positions. It was amazing to see.

As they got older, my kids developed some kind of sense that they could only fall asleep in certain places and in certain kinds of positions. It was when they hit this stage, that the long and elaborate bedtime routines were established: Reading a book, and putting on pyjamas, and brushing of the teeth, the last drink of water, etc. My kids couldn’t go to bed without those rituals. I remember on one occasion deciding to see if the kids could put themselves to bed, by themselves if I let them stay up late enough. Eventually my son got so tired, he begged me to put him to bed.

Now my kids are older, and they are more than capable of putting themselves to bed when they are sleepy. When that started happening, it was like a certain relief not to have to be responsible for doing that, but also a sense of loss that my kids were no longer so young that they needed it.

As for poor Michael Patterson putting his kids to bed, apparently before Deanna has come home and presumably before the kids have had supper (although it is difficult to tell if Deanna comes home before or after supper for the kids). We have Friday and Saturday yet to go, and if Lynn Johnston wants to play this realistically, Mike’s attempt to put the kids to bed early will fail miserably. I am just hoping it will not fail to bring a laugh as the rest of this week has done. Honestly, the idea that a father is incompetent in dealing with his children can be turned into something funny. I just don’t know if Lynn Johnston knows what that funny stuff is.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

To See at Me or Not to See at Me: That is the Question

Much to my surprise in today's For Better or For Worse, Lynn Johnston opted to go another whole day with this Robin and Meredith fight over whether or not Meredith was “seeing at” Robin. I thought it would have been a single strip joke, but with the reappearance of it, it appears that we are clearly headed toward a long and extended fight sequence which will no doubt end with Michael taking some kind of action against Meredith and Robin. If Mike’s parenting prowess shown in Monday and Tuesday’s strip is any kind of indication, it will be ineffective parenting, if not also inappropriate parenting. At the end of the week, I expect a follow-up punch line with Deanna when she comes home, with Mike either admitting she has had it rough all these years, or Mike pretending he had it easy, when he didn’t.

As an overall sequence of strips goes, if you take the prior week of John and his failures as a dishwasher and his inability to appreciate Elly, Lynn Johnston’s “circle of life” point may be to have Michael praise Deanna for all she has done in the way that John didn’t for Elly. So, yes, I think this could very well be, ultimately, another strip sequence indirectly slamming Rod Johnston. However, it should be pointed out that Michael very rarely praises anyone, especially Deanna and her time spent raising the kids; so it would actually be out of character for Michael to say something along those lines.

As for me and my own parenting style, I have a very low tolerance for the “Yes, you did”/ “No, I didn’t” style of arguing common with kids. I have found that if I let my kids talk things out, while they are arguing, it works out better. I simply throw in little corrections like, “Don’t call each other names” or “Use your pleases and thank yous.”, without saying, “Shut your gobs and stop fighting!” If my kids are progressing in a particular direction towards a resolution, I don’t want to stop them, because I think it’s good for them to learn to do that, when I am not around. However, if they are fighting without any clear progress and it is escalating, then I will interfere.

In today’s strip sequence, Michael Patterson may be holding his head, but I am pleasantly pleased to see Robin make his point about what Meredith was doing that disturbed him and Meredith making her point that she wasn’t doing anything more disturbing than looking at Robin. Why am I pleased? It’s because Robin is not being played as an imbecile for once. Granted he is talking a lot older than 3 years old and Lynn Johnston can’t keep it straight what sounds he can or cannot pronounce, but he is making his point with his father and the kids are taking turns explaining their perspective. If I were Michael Patterson, I would be quite pleased at how suddenly polite my 2 fighting children have become and how well they are putting forth their arguments. I think Lynn Johnston has other ideas, but we will wait until tomorrow to see them.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sharing Toys

I was gratified in today’s For Better or For Worse, that Michael Patterson appeared to be a better parent than he was yesterday. Actually in some respects he is a better parent than his mother was in the same kinds of situations. Mike seems to have mastered the grimace of pain every time he has to deal with his kids, instead of reading the paper (in the fine tradition of John Patterson); however, he is not shrieking or screaming at his kids as Elly frequently did / does. I give him points for that.

Of course, his scheme with the timer is destined for failure. When I had to time my kids on these kinds of things, we used the timer on the stove, which was too difficult to get to for the kids. This little hand timer would have been easy for Meredith to alter. However, Meredith opted for the time-honoured tradition of looking at her victim, a trick I remember from my youth.

Now if I were Robin, I would have taken that obviously-portable Galaxy game into my room and locked the door to get away from my sister. My kids mastered this skill pretty early on. However, it has never been clearly presented if Robin and Merrie have individual rooms or not.

The stuff that is difficult for us in my family are the games which are not easily portable, like a Gamecube, for example. When my daughter has a friend over and they want to play on it, it is like a magnet for my son to want to play it at the same time they are playing with it. It is not too difficult to distract him from my daughter because there is always something he would rather do with me than with his sister. The funny part is that now he is older and his sister's friends are older, his sister's friends are not as anxious for him to leave them alone as they one were. My daughter however, still is.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Last Panel of Poor Parenting

Today’s For Better or For Worse appears to be an attempt by Lynn Johnston to finally show the side of Michael Patterson we have not seen in a long time, if ever, the domestic Mike. I was actually doing pretty well, and sympathizing with the position of Michael Patterson until they got to the final panel. OK. I was a little disturbed in the next-to-final panel too. Meredith Patterson was handling a peeler, which can be a very sharp object and had apparently not been trained about the proper way to handle sharp objects. This disturbance did not prepare me for what was to come in the final panel.

There are Robin and Meredith physically battling on top of a chair over a sharp peeler, and Michael Patterson’s reaction is to call Deanna and ask her where extra peelers are. I think the humour was supposed to be that Mike is frazzled by his kids, in the same vein as the “Deanna is frazzled by her kids” strips. The difference in those strips is that the children were never endangered by Deanna’s incompetence in handling them. In this strip today, Michael is completely unaware of the several areas where his children are in immediate physical danger through their actions. And because he is unaware, I cannot enjoy any part of the “Mike is frazzled” aspect, because the “Mike the Stupidest Parent Ever” keeps popping into my head.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

On the Road with Elly

Now that it's in February and only 2 months away from the time where April turns 17, Lynn Johnston has decided it is finally time to address April and her driving. I suppose she needs one strip to justify the publicity comment for the "Home Sweat Home" For Better or For Worse collection which says:

April turns sixteen and will soon be driving – which is driving her parents crazy.

I remember well how it was when I turned 16 and I was eligible to get a driver's license. The high school I attended had driver's education as a part of its curriculum and I know of no one who did not take it. In the mountains of Western North Carolina in the 1970s, the common method of teaching a kid to drive was to take a vehicle into some vacant field and let the kid drive it around and get used to the feel of the vehicle where he or she didn't have to worry about hitting anything. You could get a license to drive a farm vehicle at age 14 (if I remember correctly) and it was under the auspices of that law this sort of thing was done (probably illegally). We owned no vacant fields, and so this was something I did not do. I found that when I first got into a car with the driver's ed instructor (one of the football coaches), it was with 2 other boys who had already gone through that rite of passage and so, at age 15, I was the least experienced driver in the car.

Unfortunately for me, the cars on which we were taught in high school were all automatic, and so I got no experience driving a stick. I remember one time, when my father decided he was going to teach me to drive a stick shift, by driving around town. By the end of it, he was such a nervous wreck, he never tried to do that again. Much like April in today's strip, I did not do badly, but my father was so wound up, it was a wholly unpleasant experience at the time. I remember it fondly today.

As for April and her situation, I can only imagine why she would want Elly to teach her to drive. When you get right down to it, almost anyone in her family would be a better choice, since Elly is the one most likely to be shrieking and screaming throughout the process. For my own peace of mind, I am going to imagine that April has already had professional driving instruction, and possibly her G2, and this is just how Elly is, every time April gets behind the wheel.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Bribing for Behaviour

I remember bribes for good behaviour for kids going back to the days of my youth, when I would get a sucker at the barber or at a pediatrician for good behaviour. In the days of my kids' youth, such things reached such a fever pitch that my kids would literally pick up a toy for almost any kind of kids’ activity they did. Now that my kids are reaching the age where Happy Meals no longer have the appeal to them that they once did, the influx of toys has dropped down significantly. But there was awhile there, when we were having some serious space issues in the house, because the kids would get toys every single week.

Personally I did not go for this activity, and my wife did. She was desperate for the kids to behave, particularly my Asperger's Syndrome son. My kids would give me the “but mommy does it” line, and that would just make me even more dedicated to the idea of no toys for good behaviour. Eventually my wife got tired of it too, and joined my ranks in the anti-“toy for good behaviour” brigade.

In today’s For Better or For Worse, Mike Patterson appears to have worn Elly Patterson down enough, where she is willing to bribe him to act nicely. The Pattersons rarely show any signs of disciplining the little hellion, so I can’t say that I am surprised that he has gotten them to this point.