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When Your Kids Are Kids Again

A mother marks her son's height on the door with a pencil, circa 1950. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Drew Magary’s Thursday Afternoon NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo runs every Thursday at Defector during the NFL season. Got something you wanna contribute? Email the Roo. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Outthrough here.

My daughter is home sick from school. Her throat hurts, and she wants a strep test for it. Her lymph nodes are also swollen, and she fears it’s cancer. I tell her that she doesn’t have cancer. She is unconvinced.

So I take her to the pediatrician. The girl has gone to the same pediatrician’s office her entire life, and many things are the same as they were back when she had her very first appointment. There’s a play area off to the side where toddlers can burn the clock as they wait to be seen. There are board books. There’s a large busy box, replete with sliding beads and spinning wooden gears for everyone (including bored dads) to futz with. There are year-old magazines languishing on the side tables. There are free stickers at the counter for kids who just had to endure their regular vaccination shots. And there are germs in the air … so many germs that coming to this office feels like ducking under the cordon to enter the Chernobyl exclusion zone. As such, this is the only place on Earth where I still wear a COVID mask. Same with my kid.

We get called back and the girl takes a seat on the exam table. Just like in the old days, there’s a fresh sheet of sanitary paper covering the table. When the girl was a baby, the doctor would lie her down on this sheet and, using a pencil, make hatch marks by the top of her head and by her heels to measure her length. Then they’d weigh her on a scale, as you would produce at the supermarket.

The girl is 17 now, so none of that is necessary. She has graduated from baby scales. She is now measured in height and not length, and stands taller than her own mother. But she’s still a child. I never indulge in any Daddy’s Little Girl nonsense, but of course I’ve retained every memory I can of my daughter as a baby, then as a toddler, then as a grade schooler, etc. Sometimes a photo jogs my memory, but other times my brain retrieves those images without assistance. So I see her legs dangling off the exam table, watching her kick her feet idly, and I remember. I see the girl when she was a smaller child: kicking and screaming and clinging. I see how much she’s grown as well, but I also see how much of her has not. I realize that, given that she’ll turn 18 just two months from now, this might be the last time I ever accompany her to this office.

The doctor comes in. She doesn’t have to play Got Your Nose to calm the girl down, or play gentle mind tricks to get her to open up and say ahhh. The girl knows what a doctor is, and she knows what the doctor needs to do. She follows protocol as if she’s always known it. Her strep test is negative. The doctor tells her that her swollen lymph nodes are just that, and not cancer. Now she’s convinced.

I take her home. The girl is a senior in high school and about to hear from the college she applied to for early decision. Her dream college. The decision drops at 6 p.m., and she’s understandably sweating it. She doesn’t want my wife and me near her when she finds out. She also wants to film herself getting the news, because that’s a thing that kids do now. I tell her it’s probably a bad idea to do this, because that sort of video could go awry. She concurs (I think), but still tells us to stay the fuck away. Then, to distract herself, she goes down to the basement and plays Minecraft. For hours. She hasn’t played Minecraft in perhaps a decade, but now there’s nothing she’d like more than to play with virtual building blocks. When she gets rejected later that night—rejected outright, not deferred—she goes back down and plays some more.

The next day, it snows. I live in a place where the snow falls sloppy, so it’s not much of a snow day. The 11-year-old, also sick, is undeterred. He asks me if he can go sledding in our backyard. Since my wife is still asleep and unable to exercise her usual veto power, I give my son the green light. He gears up and bounds outside. There’s barely a centimeter of snow cover on the ground, but he manages to go on a bunch of runs anyway. I can see him from my office window. He’s got rosy cheeks and the same smile he wore back when he was sledding as a kindergartener. Later on, he and the 14-year old will wrestle after dinner in the kitchen.

My kids can take care of themselves now, almost better than I can take care of myself. But our basement remains littered with artifacts of their earliest days: Lego sets with random pieces missing, Nerf guns, Hexbugs, remote controlled cars, Hungry Hungry Hippos. My wife has saved a few of these toys for future grandchildren. Others she saved for the sake of memory alone, because your children can’t un-grow. Once they’re 17, they’ll never be 16 again. Or 12. Or three. They become new people with every passing year, shedding their old toys—their old selves—as they go.

But just because you grow doesn’t mean that the kid inside of you dies. Sometimes, especially if you’re a 47-year old man who still loves hair metal, you revisit that child when you need a break from all of the real world’s bullshit. Other times, you can’t help but wear your childhood on your sleeve. My daughter, like every other 17-year-old, wants to be a grown-up and often carries herself as if she’s already there. But in times of stress, I can see the kid in her unconsciously break through the surface. I saw it in the pediatrician’s office. I saw it in our basement when she was hiding inside the Minecraft world she’d built. And I’ll see it in her, and in all of the kids, every Christmas. That’s what Christmas is for.

So tomorrow, we’ll pack into the car and drive up to my mommy’s house and we’ll all be kids for a weekend. We’ll go snow tubing, we’ll sneak cookies from the pantry, and we’ll watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Then we’ll dress in clothes we hate and go to church, where we’ll spend an hour waiting to get home so that we can eat more cookies.

You often hear about adults acting like kids. Sometimes it’s an insult, like when people throw a tantrum because they didn’t get their way. Other times it’s an inane compliment, like when a quarterback ad libs a brilliant touchdown pass. But none of those allusions get at the fact that all of us are young and old at the same time. We carry our youth with us forever, for better and for worse. It’s in our minds, it’s in the things we own, and it’s on our faces when we can’t hide it. You can learn everything there is to learn in this world and you’ll still, relative to the universe, know little more than a toddler might. After all, you can only be so old and so wise. You don’t get to be all-seeing and all-knowing. Anyone who believes otherwise is a fool and is, more important, missing out on all the fun parts of life anyway.

Still licking her wounds from her dream college rejecting her, my daughter gets into a different school—not her first choice, but one she still likes very much—a few days later. She shows us the acceptance letter and I feel a bone deep happiness inside of me. A happiness that I’m not certain I’ve ever felt. I wrap the girl tight in my arms and lift her off the ground. I haven’t done this in years, because she is big and I have a bad back. But on this night, she feels light as a feather. I tell her I’m proud of her and I hear her giggle, just as a child might. My child.

The Games

All games in the Jamboroo are evaluated for sheer watchability on a scale of 1 to 5 Throwgasms.

Five Throwgasms

Ravens at 49ers: I’m leaning towards adopting the Ravens as the “Team I hope wins the Super Bowl this year because I know my team won’t” team. I don’t want the Chiefs to win it again. I don’t want the fucking Eagles to win it, because Nick Sirianni looks too much like every Eagles fan for me to like him. But Lamar winning a Super Bowl? That would kick ass. Ravens fans are still cranky rednecks, but I can ignore them because I live in Washington, which has no football fans of any sort.

Cowboys at Dolphins

Four Throwgasms

Jaguars at Bucs: Time for a Jaguars Junction of my own! Two vital “jags” on this team for the week:

1. I know Trevor Lawrence made some appalling fuckups a week ago. Indeed, he may have a ceiling that’s lower than we thought it would be when he was drafted No. 1 overall. But have you seen the ball leave his arm when he throws it deep? Holy fuck all, it’s like cannon fire. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it. I could watch this man throw deep all day long; I don’t even care if the ball gets picked off (and it probably will).

2. Other Josh Allen is already second all-time for the Jaguars in sacks, which is tribute to how good he is but also an indictment of how dire this team’s pass rushing lineage has been. Do you know who’s first in sacks all time for this franchise? Tony Brackens. It’s the like the Bears’ wideout history, only somehow more damning.

Three Throwgasms

Saints at Rams: I saw ads for the new Percy Jackson series on Disney and was like Who could possibly give a fuck about this? Well-hell-hell, guess who forgot that The Ringer hasn’t folded its publishing arm yet?

Decades? Really? You couldn’t like, raise a family or something in the interim? Watch Fargo, like a fucking grown-up. What an embarrassment.

Lions at Vikings

Browns at Texans

Two Throwgasms

Giants at Eagles: Nick Sirianni and Matt Patricia appear to have made it their goal to look like one another.

Bengals at Steelers

Bills at Chargers

Cardinals at Bears

Seahawks at Titans

Colts at Falcons

One Throwgasm

Raiders at Chiefs: In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s the NFL’s Empty Slogans To Mollify Liberals Month. So please, inspire change. Go out there and be a justicemaker. Support jobs. Increase awareness of police systemicness. Put the “non” in nonprofit. Because together, we can all TACKLE policy if we deploy community.

Patriots at Broncos

Packers at Panthers

Commanders at Jets

Pregame Song That Makes Me Wanna Run Through A Goddamn Brick Wall

“To Hell And Back,” by Sabaton! If you’re into melodramatic Scandinavian metal, reader Hank know just the band for you!

If you've not heard of them, they're a Swedish metal band that sings about nothing other than factual, historical battles, military history, and military figures. I've learned more about global military history from rocking to Sabaton than I ever did from the US public school system (which isn't saying a whole lot). I've seen them live and they are, by far, the most fun, energetic, and engaging band I've ever seen live. Joakim's powerful vocals, combined with stellar shredding and drums, just make for a head banging good time. Also, the drummer is married to Floor Jansen, the lead singer for the Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish.

This video has opening titles! I feel like I’m about to watch a screening of All Quiet On The Western Front II: The Silence Of Fear. Also, the lead singer looks like he moonlights as a pro wrestler, and he very well might!

Eric Adams’s Lock Of The Week: Bengals (-2) at Steelers

“Now I’ve lived in Cincinnati my whole life, and lemme tell you: this is the greatest city in the country. On any given day in Cincinnati, you can wake up to find that someone has pinned a death threat to your front door using a Bowie knife, or you can head downtown and order a delicious, delicious plate of wings at their signature restaurant, ‘Hooters.’ You can even find vagrants pushing around wheelbarrows full of unidentified animal feces! Now you tell me another city where all of THAT can happen. Only in Cincy! In this town, we tie our shoes tight!”

2023 Record: 8-7

Fire This Asshole!

Is there anything more exciting than a coach losing his job? All year long, we’ll keep track of which coaches will almost certainly get fired at year’s end or sooner. And now, your potential 2023 chopping block:

Josh McDaniels – FIRED!
Frank Reich – FIRED!
Brandon Staley – FIRED!
Kevin O’Connell
Dennis Allen
Arthur Smith
Todd Bowles
Robert Saleh
Mike Tomlin
Ron Rivera*
Bill Belichick

(*potential midseason firing)

Oh wow, three midseason firings already! It’s like Santa Claus already visited my house!

Great Moments In Poop History

Reader Sean sends in this story I call THE GREAT BACKDOORS:

My girlfriend (soon-to-be wife) and I had arranged a camping trip to Acadia National Park with another couple a few years back. We set up camp at the designated car camping section of the park where unload, pitch your tents, and live outdoorsy for a few days. 

I'm not one to listen to my body intently. So it wasn't until about our third day of sleeping on the ground, starting fires, and trying not to freeze to death that I realized that I hadn't shit the entire trip. I had relieved myself quite a few times thanks to the oil drum volume of beer I drank during those 72 hours. But nothing out the back end. 

So I started to load up on fiber and caffeine. I ate an entire box of Fiber One bars and polished off the coffee crystals we had brought for the trip. 

Night passed into day. No movement.

At this point, I was starting to get concerned and desperate. So I headed into town and hit up the local CVS. It was laxative time. I popped a few of those and headed back to camp. Day passed into night. Nothing. I'm not one to see a doctor, so I figured it'll come when it comes, and we commenced drinking around the fire. 

And then... my body gave out a warning to bolt for the facilities before anyone within a 10-foot radius of me was hurt. Animals were heading for higher ground. I made beeline through the woods for the bathroom, which was located about 75 yards away. I thought I was in the clear until the plasma-like waste streamed down my leg and into my shoes. I burst open the door and exploded through a stall, rendering the toilet out of order. 

I proceeded to throw out basically anything from the waist down, and then I casually walked out of the bathroom. I walked past the one person shaving in front of the mirror who witnessed (and heard) the whole ordeal. 

Camping sucks. 

This is why I never do it.


“Slowly Sawn,” by Cannibal Corpse! Yes, it’s time for one of my favorite holiday traditions: checking in with Buffalo’s premier death metal merchants! Lyrics, please.

Prolonged incisions
His job is almost done
Saw tooth surgeon cuts
Limbs hang from hooks
Every day brings torture
Methodical pain
Slowly sawn into pieces, slowly sawn
Burning staunches torn veins
Slowly sawn

You know what? It’s actually not a bad song. I could totally work out to this. No one can ever make out these lyrics anyway.

And Now Let’s Go Down To The Sideline To Check In With Charissa Thompson

“Drew, I just talked to Donald Trump as he was coming out of the Colorado State Supreme Courthouse and he told me that he was actually happy with his defense. He said, ‘We’re not out of this thing yet, we’ve still got plenty of election to go.’ He told his lawyers that they just have to ‘finish.’ To drive the point home, he gave each of those lawyers an AR-15, with all last names engraved onto each stock. He told them, ‘This gun represents everything we’ve been working for, as a team, since January 6th, 2021,’ and you could tell that those lawyers didn’t want to let Trump down. One of them told me, ‘I’m so fired up, I could kill a whole busload of schoolchildren right now.’ So look for them to be much more aggressive going into this primary, Drew.”

Thanks, Charissa.

Gametime Cheap Beer Of The Week

Skol Super Beer! My team’s season is, for all intents and purposes, over. But that doesn’t mean drinking season has to end! From Brian:

I spent six years living in Singapore where alcohol is criminally expensive. This shit was about as cheap as it got, roughly $2 USD a can. It tasted like old, damp cardboard. But hey, it fucks you up. There’s also Skol regular if you’re a lightweight.

Nick Mullens drank four of these before attempting those tush pushes in overtime last week. It’s all over the game tape.

Gameday Movie Of The Week For Patriots Fans

American Fiction, which has not been released yet but which I was able to watch thanks to the wonders of WGA award screeners. This movie was written and directed by my former Gawker colleague Cord Jefferson, who also wrote for The Good Place, Watchmen, and Station Eleven, and has now lapped the field when it comes to Most Successful Gawker Media Alum honors. I watched the trailer for American Fiction and was like Oh this is gonna kick ass, and it did! A quick rundown of everything I liked:

  • Cast Jeffrey Wright as the lead. I’d watch Jeffrey Wright take a nap.
  • Laid waste to the idea that there’s a singular “black experience” in America, which is something that really only white liberals searching for absolution want.
  • Took plot elements of The Producers and made it into the story of a struggling author who becomes insanely successful after writing the most pandering book he possibly can as a goof. As a published author myself, I promise you that American Fiction nails how publishing industry people talk on the phone. It’s so accurate it feels like it was transcribed.
  • Transcends mere satire by making Wright’s Monk a fully formed character with real family issues, a real drinking problem, and a detailed background for why he’s hard up for money.
  • Subverts the occasionally sitcom-esque parts of the story with a flawless ending.

Three and a half stars. Cord: now that you’re big-time, please hire me to doctor other people’s scripts for $2 million apiece. I’ll make those scripts so raw and real.

Gratuitous Simpsons Quote

“Look at them all, through the darkness I'm bringing.

They're not sad at all.  They're actually singing!

They sing without juicers!

They sing without blenders!

They sing without flunjers, capdabblers and smendlers!”

Enjoy the games, everyone. And Merry Christmas!

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