Archive | August, 2011

That’s All Folks!

29 Aug

t was 6:00am this past Saturday morning. My daughter who we normally can’t pry out of bed at 7:00 on a school morning decided she was done sleeping and wanted to come into Mommy and Daddy’s room for some entertainment. As she sat there between us, waiting for us to cave-in and put on whatever PBS show the TiVo had stored, I thought back to my Saturday mornings as a kid. I never came into my parents’ bed and woke them up at 6:00. What had my wife and I done wrong? What key element were we missing in raising our kids that my parents got right? What was different then that we were overlooking now? Then it hit me like an anvil on the head. Saturday morning cartoons. When I was a kid I got up (at 6:00) all by myself and walked right past my parents’ bedroom door to the living room where the TV was. I turned it on myself and plugged in for any number of hours while my parents enjoyed sleeping in on Saturday.

I miss Saturday morning cartoons. In today’s Netflix/YouTube/TiVo on-demand society the notion of sitting down to a Saturday morning full of whatever mindless animated fluff the network saw fit to throw at us seems positively provincial. Seriously though, think about how many pop-cultural events were reinforced, or even spawned entirely by Saturday morning cartoons. Where would today’s 30-somethings be without Schoolhouse Rock? (that was TOTALLY the only way I was able to recite the preamble to the constitution in 6th grade. I stood in front of the class and sang //We the people… in order to form a more perfect union… establish justice, insure domestic tranquility…//). Saturday morning cartoons were where we got to know Tony the Tiger, Snap Crackle and Pop, Toucan Sam, Count Chocula… the list goes on and on. It’s where the images on our lunchboxes and our underoos came from. It’s how we knew what action figures we wanted for Christmas. It’s where we first learned about The Superfriends, making orange juice popsicles with toothpicks in the ice tray (“Time for Timer”) and The Snorks (shudder).

 
 

Sadly, those days are gone; and I can’t help but think that my kids (indeed all kids today) have really lost something special. I wax poetic about those days once in a while, but in my heart I think the greatest cultural casualty, the thing that kids don’t realize they’re missing out on, the thing that they really need and don’t have a predictable data-stream for is Looney Tunes.

I joke about passing along to my children the culture of all things “geek”, but this is one I’m very serious about. There has never been anything, or never will be anything that matches the sheer genius of Looney Tunes. The humor, the comedic timing, the music. Oh the music! (more on that later in the post). How else is a kid supposed to be exposed to the major personalities from the golden-age of Hollywood? Even if you don’t know the names “Jimmy Durante”, “Karl Marx” or “Erol Flynn”, you’d certainly recognize their caricatures – most likely from old-time Looney Tunes that were actually produced when those people were still Hollywood elites. To my thinking you NEED to know who those figures were to be culturally literate. If I hadn’t been exposed to them on Saturday mornings through Looney Tunes I can’t imagine how I would have otherwise.

Golden-age Hollywood elites aside, Looney Tunes brings its own elements to the cultural-literacy table. How can you be a fully-functioning member of society with no idea who Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn or Wiley E. Coyote are? Can you really integrate fully into western society if you can’t catch the reference “Le’ Purr. Le’ meow,” “Acme Roller Skates” or “You’re dithhhhpicable”? (I deliberately didn’t mention the better-known Looney Tunes catchphrases because arguably they’ve worked themselves into the cultural lexicon enough to achieve a shelf-life longer than the cartoons that spawned them). Sadly, I suppose the answer is yes, you can fully integrate with society without Looney Tunes literacy… at least the future-society run by people (our children) who didn’t grow up with a healthy Looney Tunes dose every Saturday morning.

But I have made it my mission to make sure that along with fruits, veggies, protein and grains, my kids get a healthy helping of the cool/geek food group that they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to, because in this doctor’s opinion it’s essential for strong bones, healthy teeth and firm self-esteem. Looney Tunes falls squarely in that scope.

So in anticipation of my first child’s birth (and with a not-so-subtle suggestion to Santa Claus) one Christmas I received the Looney Tunes definitive DVD collection. With some ridiculous amount of DVD’s in the collection (more than 20?), this was the treasure trove of Looney Tunes cartoons I knew my children and I would spend countless hours guffawing to until our sides hurt. Of course the reality of it all turned out quite different.

First and foremost, like most responsible parents the idea of plopping my child down for a prolonged TV-fest just sits wrong with me. Don’t get me wrong, we all have to plug our kids in from time to time just for a freakin’ sanity break. But I think most parents would agree that those events should be kept to a minimum. When push comes to shove, and I NEED my kids to do something that doesn’t my direct supervision, I’d rather send them to play outside than plop them in front of the DVD player… even if it is a soul-nourishing dosage of Looney Tunes.

There’s another mitigating factor that I didn’t anticipate. Let’s face it, Looney Tunes are rather violent. Someone is always getting punched, poked, kicked, shot, smacked or blown up. A lot of the comedy comes from one character mistreating another. It’s hard to teach empathy to a 5-year-old when you’re endorsing (by laughing hysterically at) Daffy Duck getting tricked into shouting “Duck Season!” **//BLAM!!!//**

“Ha, ha, ha, ha… er, um. That wasn’t very nice of Buggs Bunny to trick Daffy Duck, was it? No. Are playing with guns and shooting people good thing to do? No.”

Then there are the inappropriate cultural references, most notably to Blacks and Japanese (remember, many Looney Tunes shorts were actually made to play on the big-screen before major motion-pictures during World War II). To Warner Brothers’ credit the DVD collection addresses those issues with a forward by Whoopie Goldberg who tactfully acknowledges them as a product of the times they were created in. And while they are certainly inappropriate in a modern society they are deliberately included, unedited, to preserve the original cartoons as works of art.

For my part I watched countless hours of Looney Tunes when I was a kid, and I turned out fine (arguably). But my wife is especially sensitive to the violence and racial undertones. And you know what? She’s right of course. I’m glad she’s there to temper my “Naw, They’ll be fine” attitude on dropping pianos on people’s heads. Let’s not forget that Looney Tunes were originally intended for an adult audience at the theater, not 5-year-olds still clutching their teddy bears.

Perhaps Looney Tunes are better appreciated from an adult, almost academic perspective, when our sense of humor is better tuned and our sensabilities are mature enough to appreciate the antics in their fullest. I have sadly resigned myself to the fact that my children will not look back on their childhood and associate Looney Tunes as a major player as I do mine. That’s OK. They may never have the fluency that comes with weekly Saturday morning doses, but there will be enough rainy days later in their childhood when they sit down on the sofa with a big bowl of popcorn and their daddy to laugh at a DVD or two of Looney Tunes cartoons. That in itself will have its own benefits.

For those of you who miss Looney Tunes like I do allow me to make a shameful product endorsement. If you want to tap into the soul of Looney Tunes and feel the pure innocent joy of watching them without actually sitting down in front of your flat-screen, try to get your hands on the following 3 CD’s.

Carl Stalling Project Vol 1 and Carl Stalling Project Vol 2.

You may not know who Carl Stalling is, but you will recognize his work in an instant. He wrote the music to almost all of the classic Looney Tunes shorts. You don’t realize how much his music has worked its way into the fabric of  our culture until you hear these CD’s. On an academic level it’s an AMAZING lesson on integrating visuals and music. On a personal level it’s a magic doorway to a simpler time in life. You can shut your eyes when listening to these CD’s and be transported back to your childhood living room couch.

That’s All Folks! Cartoon Songs from Merrie Melodies & Looney Tunes

This is all the stuff that didn’t make it into the two Carl Stalling volumes. It’s got a lot of the classic songs that are actually sung in various Looney Tunes shorts. But the greatest gem of them all is track 7. It’s got the full-versions of “What’s Opera Doc”…. “Kill the wabbit! Kill The Wabbit! KILL THE WAAAABIT!” “Spear and magic helmet! Magic helmet? Magic helmet! Magic helmet? Yes! And I’ll give you a SAAAAAMple!”

And as if by magic as I type this, “What’s Opera Doc” just shuffled to the top of my iPod. “Be vewwy qwiet. I’m huning wabbit. Wabbit twacks! Kill the wabbit! Kill The Wabbit! KILL THE WABBIT!”

With that I take my leave for Saturday morning, 8:00am, 1979. See you in 7 minutes.

-Dork Dad

Protecting the kids on “The Grid”.

26 Aug

efore launching into the meat of the post it would be inappropriate not to thank Faiqa and the team over at aiminglow.com. They were incredibly gracious and saw fit to publish my earlier post “The Bowels of Hell” on their site yesterday. There is usually some very amusing stuff that comes out of that site on a regular basis (although there must have been a serious dearth of material yesterday for them to stoop low enough to publish one of my posts). It’s worth at least a click on your part.

Aiming Low

**we now return you to your regularly-scheduled dork**

Yesterday I receive a message in Facebook land from a friend who recently started a blog of her own about the same time as I started mine.

“Quick question. Are your blogs private or public? I am beginning to wonder if I want to be posting pictures and stories of my kids on my home improvement/crafting blog. Then anyone would have access to seeing them. Actually, now I am considering beginning a private family blog.”

I’ve actually spent a lot of time thinking about this one. I’ll be the first to admit, my chief addiction to facebook is sharing pictures, videos and stories of my beautiful family with everyone in my life who cares to see them. I don’t think “bragging” would be an inappropriate word, because there is nothing I am more proud of in this world than my beautiful family. Whenever I look at them I think “whatever competitions there are in life, I obviously win”. And so I have flooded facebook with pictures of my kids with reckless abandon – as have most parents on my facebook friends list. The temptation is to think that facebook is a “safe” place to share that sort of information because we have the illusion of control over who has access to those images and details. But it is only an illusion after all, and thinking otherwise is just naïve. Once that stuff is out in cyber-space, it’s out there forever; and anyone who’s especially motivated can get it.

But that was before I started my own blog; a publicly visible blog about parenting, and that’s a whole separate ball of wax. Like most people I’ve seen enough episodes of Law and Orde:SVU to put the fear of Elliot Stabler in me. That fear isn’t relieved by any stretch when I see what sort of search quarries my blog turns up on (a nifty little feature on this blog’s administration controls). It puts a chill up my spine when I see that my blog was tapped when someone googled (in alpha-neumerics to minimize turning up in future inappropriate google searches) “l1ttl3 g1rl 1n b4th”, or “l1ttl3 g1rl b3aut1ful p00l”, or “sw33t l1ttl3 a55 3l3m3nt4ry d4ught3r”. The notion of exposing my children to someone who would enter those terms in a google search is terrifying. I want to keep my kids as far away from those people as possible. Seeing that sort of thing can drive you to panic, and panic can drive you to bad decisions.

There’s a line to be drawn, and while the digital-age makes it so much more difficult to know where that line is, it also makes it so much more crucial that the line be clearly established somewhere. I’m certainly not one to be flip about my childrens’ safety, but I also believe you can’t live in fear either. We can’t barricade them in our homes. We can’t put them on hardcore antibiotics every single time they scrape their knees. We can’t keep them from climbing UP the slides at the playground. We can’t keep them from EVER eating a peanutbutter-and-jelly sandwich on the off chance that they may have a peanut allergy. We can’t follow them around town when they’re out with their teenage friends (as much as we’d like to). We can’t insist they wear a football helmet every time they cross the street, or keep them from climbing trees because they could fall out. All that does is teach them to be afraid of the world, when really we should be teaching them to live life, but to make wise decisions about safety as they do it.

I’ll admit, I waiver back and forth about where to set the safety threshold on this blog. There are times that I see those google quarries and I want to shut this blog down entirely and scrub any and all evidence of its existence from the internet to protect my kids. But life is about interacting with other living people, and as difficult as it is, in a civil society we have to trust the humanity that we interact with to be civil. That doesn’t mean you take unnecessary risks with your safety, but you can’t keep yourself and your family wrapped in bubble-wrap and isolated from the rest of the world in the name of safety. This is the 21st century after all, and there are certain realities to living in the 21st century that we all have to come to terms with. I believe that having your picture (and those of your children) “out there” in cyber-space is just one of those realities. But I still struggle with the right way to manage the safety of my children on the internet. I’ve recently kept an eye to this sort of thing on other daddy-blogs out there. Some dads use pseudonyms for their entire family and are very up-front about that fact. Some don’t seem to be afraid at all and use their family’s real names without concern. For my part, I started this blog to connect with other dads/parents, and that means putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable. Making this blog private, accessible only to select family and friends would defeat the purpose (after all, that’s what facebook is for, right?). So the strategy I’ve settled on is to minimize using my kids’ actual names in this blog. I’ll still show their pictures because I choose to live life, and to me they are what my life is all about. I’m sure Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson would admonish me for it, but I just can’t bring myself to raise my kids to be afraid of the world. I don’t think that’s fair to them.

To be clear, I’m not totally settled on this issue. It’s a big, scary thing to think about, and on any given day I find myself and either extreme. I would very much like to hear the opinions of anyone who read this blog. Please leave a comment below with your thoughts. I think like me and my friend on facebook, most modern parents would appreciate a constructive, vibrant discussion on how to safely and appropriately share our love of parenthood in the digital age.

-Dork Dad

To do it, or not to do it?

23 Aug

irst off, before you proceed with this post you must watch the video below. It’s required reading, especially the final 10 seconds.

 

 

Now then, if the title of this post seems like a double(triple) entendre, you’re right. It was absolutely meant that way.

Do we do it?

For the past year, whenever my patients sit down and see the onslaught of cute kid-pics I use as screensavers on the office computers, inevitably their first question to me is, “Are you having any more?” I always did my best to dodge the question.

“It depends on who you ask” was my typical response with a coy wink. To be very clear though, I held no illusions that I held any influence over that decision. In truth, although I wasn’t opposed to the idea of a third kid by any means, it’s fair to say that I was more comfortable with the idea of holding at two than my wife was. The math just worked out so much more conveniently with two. We had the right number of seats in the car, the right number of bedrooms in the house, the right parent-to-kid ratio. With three kids the whole calculus changes. Suddenly the car we had wasn’t big enough. Suddenly we have to decide if we add a new bedroom to the house, or if the new baby shares a room with an older sibling, and if so, which one, and since the bedrooms aren’t the same size, would that be fair. Suddenly we have to switch our strategy from man-to-man defense to zone. You can’t just assign one parent to one kid anymore.

In all honesty, I was comfortable. I felt like we had a good grip on the realities of our little family and that we were doing well. For the most part, we had it figured out. We had our boy. We had our girl. They were healthy. They got along. Why upset the apple cart? The other factor that is a little more difficult to admit  is that I’m not as young as I used to be. When we started our family I was in my early thirties. Today I am most decidedly in my LATE thirties. It takes a hell of a lot of energy to parent (correctly) and I can say with total conviction that as far as energy goes, with the two kids that we’ve got, at the end of the day I have absolutely ZERO left in my tank. I’m lucky to stay awake past 9:00 at night. To put it plainly, I am not the guy I was 5 years ago. My (current) kids have seen to that.

But all that hemming and hawing are moot now. As the video plainly shows, the deed is done. We did it. There’s no going back now.

Do we do it?

Once you’ve done it, and the doing is successfully done, then you have to decide who you tell, and when you tell them. The big hesitation (apparently) is if something goes wrong, how many people do you want to have access to that information? How close to the vest do you keep the secret and for how long do you keep the information semi-private? For my part, I’m a shout-it-from-the-rooftops sort of guy. My wife, most definitely, is not. Until very recently she held the keys to that particular treasure trove, and she wasn’t comfortable going public until we crossed a certain threshold and passed a certain number of screenings. Thankfully, at our last checkup, everything was looking ship-shape, so she gave me her blessing to take the news public and we were off to the races.

One thing we both agree completely on is that you tell your immediate family immediately. Having a baby is of course an intensely personal affair, but if you’re lucky and you have a tight-knit family, your family members will feel personally invested in you and your child too. Heaven forbid something does go wrong, you’re going to need to grieve, and they are too. Apart from that, nothing is more destructive or hurtful to a close-knit family than secrets. You share your joys and your tragedies together; that’s what it means to be a family. However you define “family”, your family is your support system, so you bring your support-system along for the ride with you. After we found out ourselves we digested it privately for a day or two, brought our parents into the loop, and then our sisters shortly thereafter (neither my wife nor I have brothers).

From there we kept the information pretty much within the ranks of the family, although I have to admit, in my excitement the news may have slipped to a few safe, special people outside the immediate family. I suspect my wife would tell you the same.

Do we do it?

Telling the kids – now there was a concept to chew on. When? How? My kids are really young (3 and 5), and 9 months for a 5-year-old might as well be forever. Additionally, heaven forbid something does go wrong, that’s a pretty high-level concept that really young children arguably aren’t able to digest. As it was my son recently had his 3rd birthday and my daughter started kindergarten. We wanted to give those major events the attention they deserved. We didn’t want any distractions to take anything away from that magic. So after some discussion my wife and I agreed to wait a while before bringing the kids into the fold, settling on the first trimester threshold again.

We played around with all sorts of ideas how to make the conversation fun and important for them. One thing was for certain, I knew the reveal would be something we’d love to revisit any number of years from now. So this weekend we sat the kids down around the kitchen table because we had something very important we wanted to talk to them about. (They barely even noticed the two step-stools stacked on top of one another, with the point-and-shoot set to video-mode mounted at the top on a blob of playdough to get the right angle – much eye-rolling from my wife about that one). We showed them the ultrasound that was taken on Friday and let the conversation happen.

Big gut... balding head. Yeah, it already looks like me.

Sadly the most notable parts of the video were the fact that my son lost interest with the conversation in less than 3 minutes and wandered away to go play with legos, and that my daughter’s hair was covering her face the entire time, so every single one of her facial expressions and reactions were completely lost. Ah well, best laid plans…

So here we are, in full-swing baby-mode… again. The kids have responded extremely well, the family has adjusted to the news, and at long last we’re public.

Do we do it?

Vasectomy?

Assuming everything goes according to plan, abso-freakin’-lutely hell-to-the yes.

-Dork Dad

Awkward Family Photos

22 Aug

irst thing this morning a friend passed this photo on to me from awkwardfamilyphotos.com with a wink and a nod:

From today's entry at awkwardfamilyphotos.com

Awkwardfamilyphotos.com (much like poepleofwallmart.com) is a site for snarking and mockery. Generally it highlights horribly ridiculous family photos sporting ridiculous haircuts, poses and clothing from yesteryear (or in this case more recent times). As opposed to peopleofwallmart.com, most of us can relate to the people in the pictures at awkwardfamilyphotos.com. After all, we’ve all got in our history embarrassing bowl-cut photos from childhood, unnaturally cheesy senior portraits in heinous rayon shirts and knit ties, or uncomfortable family photos posed to make everyone look like they’re sitting on a bicycle without a seat. My friend was all too happy to point out the similarities between the picture she found and the one I recently posted on facebook:

awkwardly similar to today's awkwardfamilyphotos.com entry

“But where are your fancy costumes?” she asked.

“That’s a line I just won’t cross” was my reply.

As I raise my kids, passing on my geek-values and culture, one of the most crucial lesions I can teach them is where that line lies between “obsessed” and “thoroughly pathetic”. Everyone has to decide where that line is for themselves, and goodness knows I can appreciate well-crafted cosplay (that’s short for costume play for you un-dork-dads out there). But passing on my level of dork-ness will put my kids very dangerously close to the red-zone, so it is all the more important that I make a clear distinction where the boundary lies. For me personally, the boundary is the difference between my picture and the one my friend passed on to me this morning. I want my kids to be well-versed and proud of their dork-culture, but I also want them to relate to main-stream society.

When my staff at work fondly passes along to our patients how nerdy I am (as they are more than happy to do) I am quick to point out that yes, I have been to a Star Trek convention; but no, I do not speak Klingon and I have never gone in costume or glued on pointy rubber ears.

If that’s your thing, great – let your nerd flag fly. But for me, that’s where I draw the line.

-Dork Dad

First Day.

17 Aug

 told myself I wasn’t going to cry.

 

 

Strike a pose.

15 Aug

y daughter starts kindergarten on Wednesday.

Oddly enough though I’m handling it a lot better than I expected. Don’t get me wrong. Just last week I had one of those Hallmark Card/Allstate Insurance commercial moments watching her at dance class where the little girl I was watching somehow kept switching between the baby I brought home from the hospital (I swear it was yesterday) and the big girl who was performing right in front of me. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get more than a little misty right there in front of all the other moms, kids, instructors and who knows who else. But I think I’m handling this kindergarten thing pretty well. We’ve already sent her to all sorts of Summer camps, art classes, playdates and sleep-overs at her Auntie’s house. We’ve visited the school and we’ve even met the teachers. We’ve been talking about this day for a solid year and in recent weeks, as the big day approached, the “big girl” in her has really shined through. She’s ready and excited. We’re ready and excited. This feels natural.

What I’m not ready for is what happened tonight. A little backdrop to set the stage:

My wife decided to take a practical necessity and turn it into a fun mother-daughter experience. They got packed up into the minivan and drove 45 minutes over the hill to the mega-ultra-obscene-shopping center to go shopping for school clothes.  They dropped a load at Gap Kids, and that’s OK. We want her to be excited about starting school, and part of that is sporting the new threads.

I'm told every girl needs a kick-ass pair of jeans.

Fast forward to dinner, “Guess what Daddy. The day after tomorrow I’m going to kindergarten!” She went on to tell me about her day, which included the day at the mega-ultra-obscene-shopping center. Then her eyes go wide, she gets an excited look on her face and she says “Mommy, can I do a fashion show for Daddy with my new school clothes?” So we finished dinner and baths, after which she said “OK Daddy, I’m gonna model for you now”. She rushed off into her room leaving me standing there on the wet bathroom floor, damp towel in my hand. I knew her grandma was going to want pictures, so once I got her brother organized I got out the iPhone and went into her room to see the “fashion show”. I was not prepared for what happened next.

The Pout.

I walked in there and there she was, new school clothes on and a huge smile on her face that said “I know I look good”. So I snapped a quick picture expecting to Email it off to grandma quickly and move on to the next outfit. “No, wait Daddy. Now like this”. So she puts her hand on her hip, her other hand on the bedpost, and flips her hair to the side waiting for me to take another picture. *snap* “Now like this,” and she crawls up on her bed, sits indian-style, cocks her head to the side and gives her million-dollar smile to the camera… not to me… to the camera. At her mom’s request she quick runs into the other room for a new round of praise and then as quick as a flash she’s on to the next outfit.

Workin' the camera.

The quick-change happens and then she says, “OK, now Daddy”. The iPhone charges up, the vogue-session starts and all of a sudden I realize how – odd – this situation is. My daughter is working the camera like a total pro. I have absolutely no idea where in the world she figured out how to do that. She’s turning and looking coyly over her shoulder. She’s leaning back against the doorframe alternatively smiling, pouting and kissing at the camera. And here I am, enabling it all with my iPhone. We’re totally having fun with our little fashion shoot, and I can tell she’s loving the father-daughter time. But as it progresses I’m less and less comfortable. Thankfully she only had 4 outfits to get through, so the fashion show ended as quickly as it started, but I left the experience feeling like I’d just been through a tornado.

Purple is THE color for kindergarteners this year.

Where in the heck did my little girl learn to work the camera like that? How is this going to manifest as she gets older? And what do I think about all that?

As I sit here writing this blogpost my wife is looking over my shoulder at the pictures. She said to me “Our little baby is slipping away, isn’t she?”

“Day by day” I reply with a sigh.

After another moment my wife says, “She’s really cute”.

“And she knows it” (my trusted response to everyone who makes that observation)

“Good,” she replies. “I want her to feel like she’s pretty”.

I’m choosing not to let this be more than it is. I’m choosing not to obsess about what sort of foreshadowing this may be for the future. I’m keeping my eye on the ball. This week is all about starting kindergarten. Next week is about locking her up in the house and polishing my shotgun.

-Dork Dad

Lucky me.

12 Aug

t’s Friday. This Summer that means Daddy gets to go with the rest of the family to swim lessons, dance class, and whatever else we decide to do as a family unit. Sometimes that means a hike on a trail we’ve never been to, sometimes it’s a trip to a local amusement park, sometimes we go to a kid-friendly museum/aquarium/zoo… whatever. Today it means Daddy hangs with the kids while Mommy runs frantically all around town getting prepared for the big birthday party tomorrow. The kids decided to invest some quality swing-time in the backyard, so for the better part of the hour I played the dutiful-daddy and pushed when needed, did “underdoggies” when demanded, and generally goofed around, Pandora playing over the iPhone the whole time (Michael Giacchino channel, check it out).

I stood there pushing my kids, listening to their happy conversation weave in and out and move from one topic to another the way it naturally does between two young, well-adjusted kids. There’s something about rhythmically, gently making contact with each of them at the same time, keeping their swings moving with a gentle touch to the small of the back, listening to and watching their sweet back and forth like I wasn’t there at all. I always have the same thought in moments like those. I always think to myself just how lucky I am to be standing there right at that moment.

Swingers.

I mean honestly, rarely is there another dad around the pool or at dance class when I’m there on Fridays. I hear it often enough from my friends, “Don’t you ever work?” Of course I work. I work very hard; just not on Firdays… (/sheepish) or Wednesdays. It’s an incredible luxury to have that sort of free time. Believe me, I know that – and I don’t take it for granted. In fact, in those moments where I’m just occupying the same space as my two small children, when it’s just me and them in the big wide world, I’m supremely aware of what a luxury that time is. This particular Friday my mind drifted off thinking about just HOW I came to be this lucky:

When I was young, dreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up, there were a few things I knew. I knew myself well enough to know that I would probably have to be my own boss. Indeed, in my adult experience that notion was proven correct dozens of times. I also knew that whatever I did, I wanted to be the sort of dad my father was for me. I wanted to coach soccer and video-tape ballet recitals. I knew that  I needed to make enough money so that my wife could stay home if she wanted to. I’d also watched my Dad (as a sole-proprietor of a small business) struggle through the painful recession of 1987. Whatever I did, I wanted it to be recession-proof, which is to say I wanted people to need my services no matter what the stock market was doing. Then, the summer between 9th and 10th grade, while working one of those mundane summer jobs we all do when we’re 15, it struck me like a bolt of lightning. When you put all those puzzle pieces together it meant healthcare. That was the summer I decided I was going to be a physician.

I held on to that notion all the way through college. As I was preparing and submitting my applications to medical school I met an amazing woman who would later become my wife. As any good woman will do she changed the way I looked at the world. Suddenly I wanted to get on with my life, and the notion of another 10 years of school didn’t seem quite as appealing as it did just a year earlier. When it became clear that she was going to be a permanent fixture in my life, she and I sat down and reassessed the strategy. When we went down the list of all the things that originally attracted me to medicine we quickly realized that none of those things were there anymore (I can just imagine my physician friends laughing as they read the previous paragraph).  But you know what? All those things were still there in dentistry. It took about a week to get my head around the idea but eventually I came around. With a deep breath I withdrew all my (completed and submitted) med-school applications and began the year long process of getting into dental school.

11 years later, here in the backyard with my kids, I can say with complete conviction that next to marrying my wife, going to dental school was the smartest thing I ever did. No, I’m not ridiculously wealthy (I’m not a specialist after all). But I am ridiculously fortunate. I don’t have a Porsche, but my wife doesn’t have to work. We don’t have a ski-lodge in Tahoe, but I’m not missing my children’s childhood either. I have enough control over my own schedule that I can work extended hours on the days that I do work to make 3-day-weekends a lifestyle.

Being a dentist may not be as glamorous as being a physician (after all, they never make prime-time dramas about dental offices staring sexy, big-name Hollywood luminaries). But next week my daughter starts kindergarten, and I cleared my morning schedule so I could walk her to school for the first few days. THAT is what I knew I wanted all those years ago, and I am thankful every day of my life that I managed to find it.

-Dork Dad

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