When we turned over the reins of this column to teen-sex counselor Anthony "Uncle Tony" LaFemina in May of this year, little did we realize that the result would be insanely popular (read: For once, almost nobody wrote in to complain about the jarring interruption in four-color real estate ads). So we were a receptive bunch indeed when Uncle Tony contacted us recently and asked to extend his Orlando Weekly pedigree into the field of parenting tips for modern mommies and daddies. It seems the issue of child-rearing has become particularly salient to Uncle Tony all of a sudden and he wouldn't elaborate any further but we could hear the sincerity in his voice as it traveled down the wires from Union City, N.J., begging for a forum in which he could teach parents everything they need to know. So we're proud to present this sampling of questions and answers from his forthcoming book on the subject, What to Expect in the First Five to Ten.
Dear Uncle Tony:
My 5-year-old is a real handful. From the minute he gets up in the morning to the time his head finally hits the pillow at night, he's always making a scene about something or other. What cereals I should buy, when we can have a puppy, how long he gets to play on the Xbox before dinner … every little thing turns into a major production, usually delivered at about 130 decibels. Sometimes I think he's doing it just to get a rise out of me. What's a mother to do?
Shriek and Destroy
You hit the nail right on the head, sweetheart. The little paisan wants to see how easy it is to push your buttons. And every time you let on that his little Courtney Love routine is making you hot under the collar, you're giving him the green light to keep on doing it.
Instead, what you want to do is act like nothing fazes you, no matter how out of hand he gets. Junior boosts your Zippo and lights the carpet on fire? "Oh, dear," you say. "I was going to use that lighter to get you started on your first pack of Kools. Now I guess we'll have to wait until you're 21." No matter what happens, the idea is to shrug your shoulders and move on like nothing happened. It's the best way to as a pamphlet I once leafed through put it "render him powerless."
Oh, and know what else will render him powerless? Blackjack to the forehead. Works just like a snooze alarm.
Dear Uncle Tony:
I want to feed my kids the foods that are best for them, but I don't know what to buy. Help!
Lost in the Supermarket
Of course you're confused: There's so much bogus information out there these days, most of it being pushed by smart-mouthed "nutritionists" who just want to sell books. For the real inside skinny, order the one volume you can't live without: What to Expect in the First Five to Ten, available for $29.95 from 1-888-ASK-TONY. (Or visit www.amazon.com and do a search for the phrase "vanity publishing.") In the meantime, tune the "experts" out and use your common sense. Calamari, for instance, is an excellent source of protein. But stay away from fruits and vegetables if you can: They made my cousin Carmine swell up like Gary Busey's pituitary gland.
Dear Uncle Tony:
I'm a new dad who works long hours, so I don't get to spend as much time with our baby as I'd like. But I'm starting to get concerned about how often he gets sick. It seems like every time I come home at night, he's throwing up something that looks like a tie-dyed shirt my kid brother brought back from Burning Man. Is this normal behavior in the first months? My wife says it is, but I really have to wonder.
Retch Man, Poor Man
I hate to break it to you, but something is rotten in the state of Finland. You may love your wife and think the sun shines out of her can, but she has a serious screw loose that's putting your kid in jeopardy. And I know all about her problem, because I saw a TV special on it one night when the NCAA Final Four ran short. It's called Stockholm Syndrome by Mennen, or something, and she's got it bad. What it means is that the broad is making your kid sick maybe by feeding it Halls Mentho-Lyptus, maybe by forcing it to watch The Princess Diaries just so she can score Florence Nightingale points by staying up with it all night while you sleep off a hard day of auto detailing.
Needless to say, this is a situation that calls for tact and gentility. One afternoon, when she's off her guard and the wee one has gone down for a nap, sit her down, look lovingly into her eyes and say, "Honey, you're as crazy as a shithouse rat." Only then will she notice that the "kid" in the other room is a four-pound bag of Ruffles, there's a taxi idling outside and the locksmith is whistling his way up the front walk.
Dear Uncle Tony:
I'm a 16-year-old girl from Jacksonville, Fla. I just found out I'm pregnant, and I couldn't be any happier if I had planned it this way. But I'm anxious, too. Will I be a good parent? How is my lifestyle going to change? How much time should I expect to spend hunting for bargains in the kids' bins at Ross? I guess what I'm trying to say is, TELL ME EVERYTHING!
A Whole New World
Relax, my excitable little fawn. Bringing up a baby may look complicated, but it's the one thing that, deep down, everybody knows how to do. Otherwise, God wouldn't make so many of us do it, right? For extra help to get you through the rough patches, pick up What to Expect in the First Five to Ten, available for $29.95 from 1-888-ASK-TONY or www.amazon.com. I guarantee that ordering the book will make an instant change in at least one household; yours could be next! And if you think you need to go even deeper, hunt down the parenting book that's the granddaddy of them all the one even Uncle Tony recognizes as the blueprint for how to deal with small children. It's called The Art of War, and it was written by some guy named Sun Tzu. I think he's Puerto Rican.