Archive | September, 2011

My buddy and me.

30 Sep

here’s definitely a little hero-worship going on in our house lately. My boy is in a big time “daddy-phase”. And of course that’s the way it should be with 3-year-old boys. Daddies are supposed to be the super heroes in their little boys’ lives. Every waking moment while I’m at home it’s like he just can’t get enough of me. “Daddy, play with me. Daddy, push me on the swing. Daddy, let’s play baseball. Daddy, what are you doing? Daddy, I want you to wear your batman T-shirt. Daddy, come watch me go potty”. He’s definitely bonded, and it’s really sweet (if not a little maddening at times… it’s nice to be able to go to the bathroom without a 3-year-old banging on the door saying “are you done, Daddy? Are you done  now? Now? Can you be done now, Daddy?”) And of course it makes sense. At 3 he’s developing gender identity. He wants to wrestle when his sister wants to have elaborate social dramas with her dolls. His mommy just doesn’t play light sabers the right way. After spending all day with his mother and his sister it makes sense that he would want to maximize his dude-time when I’m at home. All that is very normal. But beyond all that “normal” I’m starting to develop a sense of something “extraordinary” – something “special” happening. My son and I are becoming “buddies”.

superfriends

I don’t use the word “buddies” lightly. That word has special meaning to me. When I was growing up it was the affectionate, familiar word that my dad (and his dad) used to address me. It was a males-only word that served to reinforce the familial male-to-male bond. It was a word reserved exclusively for us and, at least in my eyes, came to represent a bond that went beyond the strict definition of the word. It meant a shared experience, a common family responsibility, and a reinforcement of a special relationship that couldn’t be explained to anyone outside that relationship. I don’t think my father and grandfather engineered things that way; and maybe it was just my sense of the over-dramatic. But the effect was the same: “buddy” means something special. Through my life I have always reserved that word for special relationships and when I learned that we were having a boy, looking at that ultrasound, mind blown, mouth agape, “buddy” was the first word to come to mind.

field-level

Whether by design or by instinct that word and its enhanced meaning have clearly been passed on to my son. He uses the word quite deliberately now. When he says “Can we be buddies tomorrow?” he’s asking if we can hang out, just me and him. When we go to Starbucks on Saturday mornings to get coffee and scones he tells the person behind the counter “We’re buddies, me and Daddy. Just the two of us.” When we’re having a quiet snuggle-moment he says softly to me “I love you, Daddy. We’re buddies”. To my boundless joy my son clearly has a sense that he and I have a special relationship, and he does what he can as a 3-year-old to reinforce that relationship. To this day I still have that relationship with my father, and he and I do what we can as adults to sustain that special relationship. We have our special father/son time where and when we can and we both still hurt at the absence of his father (passed away more than 15 years ago now) from our exclusive club. Recently my son has made the connection across generations and referred to my father as “our other buddy”. For everything there is a season – turn, turn, turn.

Along those lines I made a startling observation this week. We were having one of our “buddy days”, staying out of the house as much as possible while my wife stayed at home with my boy’s sick older sister. We spent the whole day together, going to the aquarium, to the beach and to a restaurant for lunch. From over my shoulder in the minivan I heard him say “I had fun today Daddy, because we’re buddies”. It occurred to me that I could have said the exact same thing to him. I hadn’t had that much fun, just me and another guy, in a long time. That startled me. Let me digress a moment.

I’ll let you in on a little secret of fatherhood: it’s sort of lonely. Maybe this falls in the category of “too much information” but I really don’t have a lot of friends. I go to work all day where I’m the boss. As much as I like my (all female) staff, being the boss means you have to keep a professional separation that precludes forming any genuine “friendships”. I leave work and every single waking moment from the moment I get home to the moment the kids go to sleep is dedicated to being Daddy. Thirty minutes after the kids get down I’m fading myself, and before I know it I’m up again the next morning to do the same thing all over again. Where mommies have the opportunity to develop social relationships with other mommies WHILE they’re being mommies (mommies’ groups, play-dates, dance lessons, etc.), daddies don’t have that perk. Virtually 100% of my time is accounted for as either work/boss, or home/daddy. There simply isn’t time to cultivate friendships outside those boundaries. I certainly feel that loss, and it may change over time, but my family deserves everything I can give them outside my working hours. As pathetic as it makes me sound, the realities of my life are such that I simply don’t have any regular “friends” anymore (except my wife of course).

So driving down the freeway, when my son said “I had fun today Daddy, because we’re buddies”, I was left a little speechless when I realized that yes, in fact my son is my best guy friend. Believe me I realize how dysfunctional that sounds – that a 37-year-old’s best friend is his 3-year-old son. But here are the facts: We both are the primary other male in a world otherwise completely filled with females (I have an all-female staff at work, he primarily spends his time with his mother, grandmother and sister all day). We both like the same stuff (I have indoctrinated him quite deliberately, and quite well as demonstrated all throughout this blog). And we have the most awesome conversations now. “Daddy, are Dinobots Autobots or Decepticons? Are sharks reptiles or amphibians? Does Darth Vader like the rancor monster? Is Captain Jack Sparrow a good guy or a bad guy?” We play baseball in the backyard before dinner. We go to the comic book shop together. We wear matching t-shirts. We pee in the potty at the same time together (Gross, I know. But this is a father/son thing that goes back millennia, and across all cultures). Aside from my wife he is, for all intents and purposes, my best friend, and as creepy as it sounds, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Believe me, I know that the worst parents are the ones who try to be “friends” with their children, rather than “parents”. I don’t think I have that problem. Parenting comes first in my mind. And of course he’s going to have to develop his own social relationships that will no doubt take shape in the coming years as he gets more established in pre-school and later grade school. There will be times when I’ll have to take a hard line as his father, when we’ll butt heads, and when he “hates” me. If my relationship with him is anything like my relationship with my father, those times should pass as he moves into adulthood, and what remains will be the closeness; the friendship. But for the time being, he and I have an emotional connection that comes from shared experience. I look forward to spending time with him, and when the prospect of a dude-centered special experience comes around, he is the first person I think of sharing it with. In the absence of anyone else in my life fitting that same description, that makes him my best guy-friend. And you know what? As long as I’m his parent first and his best friend second, I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

 

-Dork Dad

 

 

Do as I say…

28 Sep

This afternoon my son said to his grandmother, “Dabba, you’re being a dork!”

Understandably concerned by the breach of etiquette, my wife attempted to correct him. “That’s not a nice thing to say to someone, honey.”

In all of his 3-year-old genius my son replied, “But Mommy, you call Daddy a dork.”

She had nowhere to go from there. Game. Set. Match.

-Dork Dad

Pony-tails, pom pons and S.F. ink

19 Sep

y goodness. What a weekend we had. Aside from being the first official WEATHER weekend of Summer (despite the fact that Autumn starts on Friday), we spent the entire weekend in an NFL-fueled, bleach bottle-blonde, over-scheduled, over-makeuped mad dash of insanity. Some time ago we signed my 5-year-old daughter up for a weekend camp with the San Francisco 49ers Cheerleaders. There, along with about 300 other girls her age, she learned a cute little cheer routine, got an official cheerleader uniform, and performed the routine right there on the field just before the national anthem on game-day. Between the schlepping, the heat, the hotel, the hairspray and the crazy tail-gaters the kids (and their parents) were absolutely wiped. Yes, yes. We had all the normal concerns about NFL cheerleaders sending out all the wrong messages to little girls about what it means for a woman to be successful and attractive. We did it anyway. But it must be said: the 49er Cheerleaders ran an EXCELLENT operation. They were organized, they were professional, and they were GREAT with the kids. The jury’s still out as to whether we’ll do it again next year, but for now we’ll just exhale and enjoy the memory of the wonderful Chevy Chase-esque weekend.

bleach-bottle bookends who, in all fairness, were AMAZING with all the little girls

To be clear, we did not take the role-model thing lightly. Obviously the most important role-model in a girl’s life is her mother, and my daughter has a truly Olympic-class mother to look up to. And I am proud to say that during a juice box break, my daughter said to everyone within earshot, “I like being a junior cheerleader, but I don’t want to be a grownup cheerleader. They wear too much makeup”. But you can’t help worrying that you’re sending the wrong message to your daughter when she spends 6 hours over the weekend with over made-up 20-somethings in hair extensions and hawt pants. As it turns out, most of the NFL Pro-cheerleaders we were working with were preschool teachers or college students on the weekdays. That explained why they were better with the kids than I expected. They do it because it’s a fun adventure, and they love to dance. OK, great. So these aren’t the blondes from “Mean Girls” or “Bring It On” (even if they look that way). As I was gradually talking myself into feeling better about letting my daughter spend time with them I suddenly made a startling observation:

Of all the professional cheerleaders there, and there were dozens, there was not a single, solitary visible tattoo on the entire bunch. (not that I spent much time… ahem… scrutinizing their… erm… visible bits)

This I appreciated.

Didn't get a single picture all weekend with a decent smile. That darned tooth was just too wiggly to ignore.

Let me paint a picture for you. I live in one of the most homeopathic, liberal, blue-collar, laid back, 5 years of community-college educated, surfer-bum towns in the world. At the local high school basketball games it’s jaw dropping how many minors are sporting ink. In this community it feels like getting your first tattoo is part of the standardized 6th grade graduation requirements. I’ll take the opportunity right now to say that I don’t have anything against tattoos. But when my daughter’s dance instructor makes no attempt to hide her tramp-stamp (I’m sure my mother has no idea what a “tramp-stamp” is, so here’s the link), when one of her preschool teachers had sleeves, and when the guy handing out skates at the roller-rink has gang tats on his neck, you get a little sensitive about that stuff. Tattoos are omnipresent around here. They’re part of the culture, the culture that my daughter is growing up in.

I bet the Romans didn't have pre-game entertainment like this in the Colliseum

So sitting there with the other parents in the bleachers, watching our daughters shake their groove-things with professional groove-thing shakers, I took a little comfort in the tattoo-lessness of it all. Let me also put it on the table the fact that I hold no illusions as to whether or not I can keep my daughter from ever getting a tattoo. But I have to say, no daddy ever holds his brand new, beautiful, perfect infant daughter in his hands and says “Boy, I can’t wait to see how she inks herself up when she’s older”. Neither my wife nor I have any, and I hope that that will be enough to keep the temptation at bay while she’s still in our home. But she’s going to go to college someday. She’s going to be in her 20’s, and she’s going to have to figure out who she is outside our little microcosm. Sometimes that means getting a tattoo. There are worse things a girl can do, so in the grand scheme this ranks low on my up-all-night-worrying radar.

If she sets her heart on a tattoo, I know I can’t stop her so I won’t try. But if she’s going to do it, I hope maybe she would entertain this suggestion: Let’s go get one together. We’ll make an experience out of it. We’ll go to San Francisco (where I can pick the cleanest, classiest tattoo parlor in the western hemisphere), we’ll stay in a fancy hotel, we’ll go to a fancy dinner, and we’ll both get our first tattoos together. I don’t have to like it if my little baby decides to tattoo herself, but maybe I can turn it into an experience that we’ll love sharing – together. Maybe we’ll even catch a 49ers game when we do it.

…and maybe I can finally get that thumbnail sized Superman “S” on my shoulder that my wife told me I wasn’t allowed to have.

-Dork Dad

Stranger In The House

4 Sep

ometimes I catch myself just staring at this amazing little perfect stranger across the dinner table from me. Sure, I was there when she was born. I brought her home from the hospital. I’ve been there for every single day and every single major event of her life. But every so often she says or does something that totally blows my mind. She changes so fast (and so profoundly) that sometimes it seems that during the 14 seconds it took me to put more pasta on her dinner plate, she mystically transformed from the fragile little infant we brought home into an amazing, articulate, self-assured young lady. In those moments you do a double-take and try to reconcile the total stranger before your eyes with the little girl in the picture frame on your desk at work.

Mommies don’t seem to be tormented by these ghosts as much as daddies are, but I can tell you this: fathers of daughters are haunted by innumerable specters, and they are all terrifying. We think about the first boyfriend, the first leg-shaving, the learner’s permit, the prom… My wife tells me “Woah there. Ease off the accelerator. We’ve got many, many years to go before we have to worry about that. She’s only 5”. Of course she’s right, but there’s nothing rational about being the father of a daughter, and in those moments when it’s clear that your daughter is growing up at light speed, it’s easy to let your imagination run away with you.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the following story. All events are completely factual. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
*******

It was a Wednesday morning. A father (let’s call him… “Anakin”) was eagerly anticipating taking his daughter (let’s call her “Leia”) to kindergarten. After three weeks Leia had the routine down pat, and now approached the entire kindergarten experience as an old pro. Up until this point every morning Leia was walked to school by her mother (let’s call her “Padme”), younger brother (let’s call him “Luke”) and Anakin when his work schedule permitted it. But this morning Luke wanted to stay in bed, and Padme was happy to let Anakin handle the kindergarten drop-off duties on his own. Anakin secretly looked forward to it all week and when the morning finally came he attacked it with zeal. He got breakfast ready, gently coaxed Leia out of bed and got her dressed. Padme mercifully got up early to fix Leia’s hair because let’s be honest, Anakin’s skillset does not include hairstyling.

Anakin and Leia got a kiss on the cheek from Padme at the front door as they quietly snuck out without waking Luke. Backpack donned, cute clothes proudly on display, hair done-up to the nines, Leia took Anakin’s hand with a sweet smile and the two proceeded to walk to kindergarten. It was a wonderful father-daughter moment – just the two of them. As cheesy as it sounds Anakin actually wished that the walk to school was a little longer, because he didn’t want it to end. After a short time they made it to school and the playground drop-off point. Leia immediately saw a classmate and the two ran off hand-in-hand to play before the bell rang, leaving Anakin with all the other parents, alone with no 5-year-old’s hand to hold. Anakin stood there in the morning fog, watching Leia play with her friends. Of course Anakin was thrilled with how well Leia conquering kindergarten. If this was Leia’s first soccer game I might… er, um he, HE might have done a fist-pump. But the best he could manage that morning was a lump in the throat that seemed to be growing by the minute.

The bell rang and Leia and her classmates lined up in their spots as if they’d been doing it for years. Once they were settled down their teacher walked them from the playground to the classroom to start the day. Anakin followed the troupe with the rest of the drop-off parents. At the classroom door one mother was persistently trying to convince her crying daughter to go into the classroom, as she had to do every day since the first day of school three weeks ago. Through the window Anakin watched as Leia expertly went about the kindergarten morning routine – putting her backpack in the right spot, hanging her jacket on the right hook, taking out her daily folder and putting it in the appropriate place; no help from daddy required. This was her territory. She knew exactly what to do and took great pride in doing it well. As Anakin watched Leia move to the carpet for circle reading time (just as she was supposed to) he realized that he was rapidly losing his composure. The lump in his throat was threatening to take over entirely, and he realized he was going to have to leave quickly, lest he should do something that might call his masculinity into question.

Anakin stole one last look at Leia through the window. That was his fatal mistake. At just that moment Leia turned and saw him looking at her. She must have sensed it. From her spot in the reading circle she pointed to her eye, her heart, to Anakin on the other side of the window, put two fingers up and smiled confidently. It was their secret code for “I love you too.”

There were two people that cried in front of the kindergarten class that day, a 5-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man.

Anakin’s lonely walk home was a blubbering mess of un-manliness that he would be very happy to forget thankyouverymuch.

******

Of course that story wasn’t about ME. Oh no. But I can tell you this. I’m going to have to get my act together and man-up. I’m going to have to send that girl to college someday.

-Dork Dad

Now I’m Smooth

4 Sep

his morning my 3-year-old son walked up to me while I was doing my post-shower morning ritual at the bathroom sink.

 

Son: “Daddy, would you please raze me?”

So, very lightly, I gave my razor one pass first down his right cheek, than his left.

He looked in the morror next to me, hands on his cheeks and a big smile on his face, “There, that’s better. Now I’m smooth.”

Kids are so easy to love.

-Dork Dad.

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