Warning: Please Keep Your Kids Away From My House

August 13, 2016  •  5 Comments

Attention Neighborhood Parents,

Until further notice, the Levinson household is off limits to your children – quarantined – because I respect you and I don’t want your precious kids to develop what’s already inflicted mine: a truly pernicious and perhaps incurable case of quadraffirmitis.

What’s that? The disease is foreign to you? Consider yourself lucky, because if your kids have it your life is almost certainly inefficient, your vocal chords are withered, and your wife is most likely irritated with you. Quadraffirmitis (QUAD-rah-firm-EYE-tis) is the inability to affirmatively accomplish any task requested of you until being asked at least four times.

If you’re unsure as to whether the disease has spread to your house, here’s an example of how it presents itself in ours:

Mason: “Scarlett, the camp bus is going to be here in 5 minutes. Put your shoes on.”

Scarlett: “OK.”

(Scarlett, 9, takes somewhere between four and seven steps toward her shoes, then notices the Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty. Picks it up.)

Mason: “Scarlett. Shoes.”

Scarlett: “Yep.”

(Scarlett puts down the Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty. Takes zero steps toward shoes.)

Scarlett: “Did you know we’re playing the basketball finals today? Like, last week, we won because we had a few guys who were like really tall, but they’re not back this week so we’re like probably not going to…”

Mason, staring intensely: “Scarlett.”

Scarlett: “OK, OK.”

(Scarlett walks the entire 14 steps to where her black high-top Chuck Taylors were last shed next to the front door. She almost sits down on the step to begin the process of putting them on before realizing that, perhaps in her bedroom, there’s a particular lanyard bracelet she’s been working on that could use some attention on the bus, so she heads up the stairs, but not until she zones out looking at a completely random spot on the bannister for 18 seconds. She then disappears.)

Mason, a minute later: “SCARLETT!! Enough. Jeez. You are so irritating. PLEASE. PUT. YOUR. SHOES. ON.”

Scarlett, heading back downstairs: “OK! I heard you!”

No, this is not an acute case of quadraffirmitis, nor is it cute. It doesn’t come on suddenly and then disappear. It’s chronic and I think it’s invasive. For the full picture, consider every task needed to get Scarlett off to camp (wake up, brush hair and teeth, get dressed, sunblock, etc.) and multiply that by some number north of four.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned 5-year-old goofball Everett yet. He’s only suffering from tricaffirmitis, though all available data suggest that this is a degenerative condition and that he’ll be in Scarlett’s shoes within a couple of years. Of course, that’s just figuratively; literally, he’ll be without shoes as I yell at him. 

Mr. Goofball"Everett, give me a nice look. Everett. Everett. Everett!"

I actually considered starting a GoFundMe campaign instead of penning this community missive, seeking to crowd fund survival supplies such as coffee, booze and therapy. But, having to list quadraffirmitis in the “medical” section of the website, next to people suffering from much more horrible diseases, felt highly inappropriate. Yes, I am aware that if quadraffirmitis is the only ailment from which Scarlett suffers, I should consider myself lucky. Indeed, I do, and not wanting to jinx myself, I made a donation to a complete stranger in our community on GoFundMe. Maybe you should too?

I’ve given a lot of thought about how to solve my family crisis, including my latest experiment: DIY Friday. With both my wife, Rosie, and me at home on Fridays, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to let Scarlett call the shots, handling her responsibilities entirely by herself. If she ended up getting on the bus naked with her hair looking like a bird’s nest, so be it. Scarlett also said she was up for the challenge. Everett said he’d like to play next year. Here’s how DIY Friday began:

DIY Friday

Having set her alarm clock for 7 am, I walked into Scarlett’s room at 7:07 to find her asleep, head fully under the blankets as her clock radio blared Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd. Feeling compassionate, I woke her up, not wanting to immediately submarine the entire experiment.

Scarlett, excited for the chance to prove her mettle, initially responded well. She showered, grabbed most of her necessary clothes and came downstairs. And then, the train slowly came off the tracks, frequently finding herself lost in thought and distracted by everything that wasn’t needed to get ready for camp.

If you’d like to try DIY Friday yourself, here’s my suggestion: Wait until the enabler spouse in your household – you know who you are – is out of town. Inventive therapies such as DIY Friday are not for the feint of heart and sadly, Rosie apparently just doesn’t have what it takes to stay the course.

Seconds after literally yelling at Everett, “Oh, my God, do I have to say ‘Kids’ bar?’ 17 times?” Rosie began dropping hints at Scarlett on what she still needed to accomplish prior to leaving for camp.

For example, she silently made the “brush your teeth” finger gesture before turning to me and saying, “What? I was just wiping something off my face!”

I knew then that DIY Friday was a failure.

The decision to write this letter was made after Rosie last week told me that both kids had recently mentioned that I yell at them a lot, and that she wanted me to know that. I took it to heart, as I didn’t disagree. Prior to trying DIY Friday, my latest course of action in confronting quadraffirmitis had often been to forego repeatedly and pleasantly asking the kids to get going. Instead, I’d moved straight into sternly telling them to go to bed, or take a bath, or wash their hands. Apparently, this method of parenting just made me come off like an angry jerkface.

I’m not an angry jerkface and because I don’t suffer from quadraffirmitis, it didn’t take Rosie telling me several times to change my behavior for me to try to do just that.

Incidentally, I have occasional flare-ups of athletanondisruptus (ATH-let-ah-NON-dis-rupt-US), the complete tuning out of any and all other people while watching sports, but that’s a wholly different condition.

I’ll keep working at remedying all our family disorders, but in the meantime, you’d be wise to keep your own perfect children out of my house. Let’s just hope this thing isn’t airborne.


Mason Levinson, formerly of Bloomberg News, is a freelance writer and photographer. See more of his work at http://masonlevinson.zenfolio.com/.



wesley coll(non-registered)
Geez, should we be concerned, Mason? For much less, neighbors are known to have called Child Services, which in some inner city neighborhoods always brings a Swat team along, just in case. As they say, don't worry, it'll get extremely worse once they hit their teens.
If this is a cry for help, perhaps you may learn something with the world's self-proclaimed Best Dad, (see here http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/dave-engledow-worlds-best-father and here http://1x.com/artist/engledow) who's been piling up accolades for his parental skills. He certainly shows more patience than I'd ever wish for when dealing with my teen. Oh, and btw, hide all blunt objects of your household. Cheers
Dan Fisher(non-registered)
So sorry Mason. I can't relate. My children are perfect. In fact, over the last three weeks, they have kept their rooms completely clean and orderly. They have not left any dishes in the sink, nor have they watched TV when they shouldn't be. They haven't commented on my skinhead and no one has given me the finger in weeks. I haven't once had to tell them to practice their instruments, take the dog for a walk, or take out the garbage.

We pick them up from camp tomorrow.
Donna levinson(non-registered)
Laughing so hard that I'm crying. Louis CK has nothing on you
Marsha Berman(non-registered)
I can't stop laughing...excellent!!!! and just to reassure you...this is congenital...and I know your parents and I went through the same things!!!!
Merle Zoller(non-registered)
Can't stop smiling. You nailed it!
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