“Alright, Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my…armpit fart?”

Huffington Post. THE Huffington Post. It’s the calling card that every blogger aspires to receive. If you are featured on the Huffington Post–you’ve arrived.

I have not been featured on HuffPost, as they say. Oh, I’ve submitted posts. I’ve tweeted them. I’m friends with HuffPost Parents on Facebook. I’ve done the sort of thing that most daddy bloggers have done, but still no bites.

So, imagine my surprise when, a few weeks ago, I received an email from a producer of “Tell Me Why…,” a video segment on HP featuring kids asking and answering questions. It read:

Hi Michael,

I’m a producer at HuffPost Live and I produce a segment each week called “Tell Me Why” where we invite a kid to come on and ask a question or explain something he or she is passionate about.  
We’ve covered everything from String Theory and Evolution to Space… but perhaps one of our favorite episodes was one about Boogers 🙂  I just saw this post about your son’s “to do” list, photo (40)which brilliantly ends with armpit farts.  We’re hoping to pick up where we left off with boogers, and discuss farts on “Tell Me Why” and I wonder whether you think your son may be interested in joining.
A strange request, I know… but I look forward to hearing from you, nonetheless!
All best,

Well, I called Claire right away and she could not have been nicer. The premise was pretty simple. They would Skype with Hayden and talk to him about armpit farts. We didn’t even have to leave our house. I set out to convince my eight-year-old that this was a grand adventure.

First, I inquired about his talent. “Hey, do you still know how to do armpit farts?” I asked as we walked from the bus stop. He proceeded to do a lopsided chicken dance with his hand inside his armpit: (place tongue one inch outside closed lips and blow)–yeah, that sound. Feel free to make that sound for the rest of this post.

Then, my other son, Owen (9), joined in on the action. “Dad, I can do them with my knee!” And he did. Right there in the driveway. He sat down and flopped one leg in the air with his hand cupped behind his knee. “And some kids can do them with their neck,” which he then attempted, unsuccessfully.

At bedtime that night, I showed the boys some “Tell Me Why…” video clips from HuffPost.

“That’s weird,” said Hayden.

“Wouldn’t you like to be in a video like that? It would be like being on TV,” I say wide-eyed, channeling my inner Willy Wonka.

“No way,” says Hayden, scrunching his nose.

I look at his brother, Owen, who is more of a natural ham–always performing for audiences both real and imaginary. “How about you, Owen? Would you do it?”

“Maybe,” he says. And I think I can convince him. I don’t push too hard, for fear I might lose. I’ll continue to goad tomorrow, I think.

I come downstairs after putting the boys to bed.

“Honey,” my wife says, “this is so exciting! The Huffington Post…” and she doesn’t even know how to classify it. It is then that I reveal my trepidation. “Yeah, I’m not sure. Is this really how I want to be recognized by Huff Post?”

I think about how I’ve been trying to work over the boys, to enlist them in my quest for publication. Then, I think about how this really has so little to do with me, or my blog, or what I’m attempting to do as I tap away at this keyboard, putting words down to capture my experiences.

And that’s just it. This is not MY experience. This is my son’s experience. And even though I am proud of the collection I have captured on this blog for three years, a sinking feeling begins in my stomach. These boys are no longer toddlers, they are not cute props, but individuals. My boys, and my blog, are changing, and I need to be more mindful of their rights, their boundaries.  As they get older, I am feeling I have less of a right to tell their story, as they are telling more of their own.

I am embarrassed. I feel a bit ashamed that I am trying to pimp out my son’s penchant for all things fart on a national platform. I envision a video feed popping up years from now, when one of the boys is running for president of a class or the country:), a video of them demonstrating the art of armpit farts on the Huffington Post. A video that went viral, that has more hits than Grumpy Cat or “delirious boy riding home from the dentist” combined…

I resolve not to push my boys to do this. If they’re not interested, then it’s not happening. This is their decision. This is THEIR life.

**********************
“I’ll pay you,” I say, desperately.

“What?!” says Owen. Yes, Owen. I’ve decided to put the full court press on him. There’s no way Hayden would do it. I’ll see if Claire would be cool with Owen filling in for him, even though it was Hayden’s drawing.

“I will pay you. Twenty dollars to do the segment.”

“Twenty bucks!”

“Yep. But once I call this lady, you can’t back out.”

I don’t even recognize myself. I smell the desperation in my plea. Inside, I’m panicking–but what if this is my only shot? What if this leads to more features on Huffington Post? A spot on the Today show. A three book deal with movie tie-ins. Happy Meal toys of the family Grinch…

My thoughts whirl. I’m such a sell-out.

I give him a few hours to think about it–to spend the money in his head.

After dinner, I try to mask my eagerness. “So, what do you think, buddy? Will you do it?”

“Nah,” he says.

Dream deferred.

And with that, the wind is let out of my sails. I am deflated. For one brief shining moment, there was Armpit-fart-alot.

But, truth be told, I was also relieved. If my quest for a gig with HuffPost had already made me act like this, I could just imagine what I would have been like during the actual interview.

I call Claire and let her know that the Trainers are a no-fart for her upcoming segment. Again, I am struck by how nice and approachable she is. For her, it’s just another day producing for one of America’s largest news outlets. But for me, it’s the silencing of the knock of opportunity.

Yet, in the end, I was relieved. One of the primary goals of my blog is to make sense of my world in a way that makes me a better father. I want to understand my past and make sense of my present, so that my family will have a better future. I want my boys to be proud of me and what I have created. What I will continue to create–for me, for them, for us.

 

 

 

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16 comments

  1. “Dad, I can do them with my knee!”

    “And some kids can do them with their neck”

    Well that’s nothing, my granddaughter can do them at will with her backside.

    [*folds arms smugly*]

    So there.

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  2. I’m glad your sons saved you from selling out. I’m also glad for your painful honesty. A very window-into-the-soul-of-a-writer moment. Why are we so desperate to be read, almost, no matter what? Curious creatures we are.

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    1. Very curious, indeed. In the end, I know I am writing for myself–to make sense of this life, as fleeting as it is. But the ego gets in the way, and clouds our perspective.

      Thanks for the insights, Kami.

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  3. You know what … I’m proud of your kids and you shouldn’t be ashamed of yourself. All at the same time. In this day and age when anything and everything is fair game for something on the internet, your boys said “no.” Maybe they’re still too young and in a few years they’d jump at the chance, but on some level, they made an age appropriate decision to resist the siren song of internet fame. Good for them.

    And you shouldn’t be ashamed of yourself. We get caught up in these moments all of the time and you really didn’t push it. You offered it to them and when they gave you a clear “no,” you dropped it. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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  4. You’ll make it to the Huffington Post all on your own, I have no doubt! (Although I would have loved to see/hear their armpit fart… Now there’s something I never thought I’d write 🙂

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  5. I love your writing Michael! Don’t need no Huffington Post to tell you that! You made me laugh out loud by myself in a toy room that lets me grace it with this old computer. To me you are quite a father with part of my grandsons mind mixed in. I hope that some day your dreams all come true. As for the boys be loud and proud because when I was their age I would probably have killed someone for twenty dollars and then bought my little sisters ice cream with the money.

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  6. Your boys are so smart to follow their farts, I mean hearts, regarding this venture of yours. 😉

    I wonder why Claire didn’t just ask to link to your post about bodily part farts along with the upcoming video. But I suppose people want to actually see kids fart with various body parts and not just read humorous posts about it.

    I, for one, will not be viewing this video, though I might have if Owen had been a sell out. 😉

    Seriously, I understand the life of a writer wanting to be, well, read. And published and even paid. Keep writing. Submit those posts and manuscripts. Put yourself out there (but maybe not the boys so much anymore, eh). It’ll happen. What? I don’t know. But whatever “it” is, it will happen, guaranteed.

    Smiles! 🙂

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  7. Mike, I have really enjoyed your last two posts. The sunburn one cracked me up. I love the idea that you were so focused on the blistering burn that you failed to notice the lack of supervision. It reminded me of my childhood. Granted, we were in a town of 1700 people in rural Iowa, so there was little danger that could befall us, but… My mom tells this story about how proud she was of me that prior to the age of 2, I understood I couldn’t cross the street alone. My older sister, at 3 1/2 years could, but I knew I couldn’t. Being a rule challenger, I would apparently stand with my little toes hanging off the curb, as it to defy my mom (who, by the way, was in the house so I was doing this mostly unsupervised). When I turned TWO I was elated to finally be able to cross the street alone to go to my friend’s house. We were like feral children, released to the world nearly as soon as we could walk. I remember one time my girlfriend and I go the idea we’d ride our bikes to the next town (about 9 miles away via a country highway with no paved shoulder). So we headed off on our one speed bikes with the banana seats to the distant land. We didn’t ask our moms. It took us several hours to get there, have cherry coke at the soda fountain, and ride home. We were 7 or 8. Our moms didn’t notice anything unusual. At dinner as I told my tale of adventure, my mom was angry not that I had gone but that I hadn’t let her know I was going. The only thing I can brag about it we did have sunscreen, not that we ever used it, but we had it just in case. And then on the below, it is exactly right. We have this idea of what we want from our kids, too often related to what we want for ourselves. The story we tell about their lives has to be integrated with the story they tell and eventually it’s not ours at all. My holiday letter used to be pretty funny (or so I’m told) as I recalled the ridiculous things we all did each year. Once they could read, both boys, but particularly Aidan, wanted to be involved in the telling. Certainly the humor fell off dramatically as they did not buy into my idea of what was funny. I suspect if I blogged parenting, Aidan would insist on being a sensor. And he’d be a tough one. I hope your summer is going well. Marc, the boys, and the cats have all arrived and we are hoping to move into our house next weekend. For now, I was able to get a bigger apartment so we are in a high-rise in the heart of Beijing. We have a nice view when the air is clear enough to see it. The boys start school on the 7th. Aidan will sign up for classes and have a back to school day this week. Hopefully he will settle in quickly. I know he’s anxious to get back to illustrating your blog as soon as our “slow boat to China” goods arrive. We are hoping they will be here by mid-August. Enjoy the rest of your summer. Be well, Polly

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  8. I agree with previous comments. You’re a brilliant writer. No need for Huffington Post. 🙂
    And by the way, I’m so proud (as a fellow blogger) of what you did, Sir! Your kids do need to have a say.

    Like

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