Tag Archives: fatherhood

Finding Comfort In Fatherhood

14 Aug

Fatherhood Header

 

letter I remember being a youngster, old enough to stay up late enough to be in the room when the adults were watching the evening news on TV. It was the Regan-era and although it wasn’t the height of the Cold War, the sabre rattling and the ideological posturing between super powers was as fevered as ever. Although I was too young to appreciate the nuances, I could certainly appreciate the gravity of what was being reported. I knew what a nuclear bomb was. I knew we were pointing ours at them and they were pointing theirs at us. I knew exactly what nuclear war meant, and it scared the shit out of me. There were at least a few nights as a young boy where I remember staying up in bed unable to sleep, too anxious and afraid of what would happen if… *if* somebody pushed that “button.”

Since then I can’t remember ever letting the “news” du-jure effect my mood. Sure, I cried when the Challenger exploded, but in my defense I was in 6th grade at the time and I was convinced I was going to be an astronaut when I grew up. Beyond that, I am too much of a relativist by nature to take the “news” to heart. Newscasters sensationalize stories to look important and networks pander to narrow-minded ideologies to sell commercials. I like to think I float above all that stuff, avoiding getting caught up in the weeds… but damned if I didn’t find myself in a funk yesterday.

Sometimes it seems like the entire world is on fire. Russia is again making trouble, this time in Ukraine, and daring the world to do anything to stop it. ISIS is beheading children in Iraq. The genocide/civil war in Syria has become so old-hat the media has stopped reporting on it. Israel and Palestine have decided that they like bombing one another more than they like talking to each other. Unarmed teenagers are being shot and killed by police officers right here in the US. Children are coming across our borders, fleeing violence in Central America, and we’re trying to send them back. CHILDREN! Two friends of mine have recently been diagnosed with cancer, one of them terminal. Ebola is running unchecked through Western Africa in a way that mirrors every disaster/plague/zombie movie we’ve ever seen. And of course earlier this week every website in the world was talking about depression and suicide and Robin Williams

Ugh.

My entire 2-hour commute was awash in those news stories yesterday morning, and after duking it out with the big city commuter traffic I was in a dark mood when I finally arrived at my destination. I pulled into the parking structure and checked my phone quick before I went in to work. When I turned it on this was the image I saw:

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It’s a picture I snapped of my daughter at a local beach more than a year ago. THAT was precisely the image that I needed to see… that the WORLD needs to see. Yes, we may live in a world that sometimes seems to be falling apart all around us, and as a responsible citizen of that community we are obligated to be aware of what is happening in that world.

But that world isn’t my life.

You see, I am a father – and there is no greater joy in the world than the joy of loving your family. When I saw that picture I immediately thought of the young lady, just on the cusp of entering the “tween” years. She loves legos and all things Harry Potter. She conquered a task in the heavy surf this summer that would make a grown man think twice. Her biggest concern in life right now is whether or not she gets the 3rd grade teacher she wants when school starts up on Monday. She bosses her brothers around, has drama with the boys on the playground and still likes me to do the voices when I read to them at night.

*SHE* is my life.

Then I thought of my oldest son. He has recently turned a corner in his skill with a soccer ball and a baseball. He boldly tries any meat he can order on the menu (much to my vegetarian wife’s disgust). No animal is too esoteric. He just lost his first tooth and he requested fish, crab and BBQ’d shrimp (and beer!!!) for his 6th birthday party. He can build a Lego set faster than anyone I know and he has a special relationship with his grandmother. Although he’s the youngest kid in his class he loves the fact that he is also the tallest (by far). He loves to figure out multiplication problems in the back of the car. He loves guessing the movies for the film score music I play and he still likes me to do the voices when I read to them at night.

*HE* is my life.

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Then I thought of my youngest son. He loves getting grownups to smile by being silly in any way he can. He loves naming the Star Wars characters he sees in books or on t-shirts (and he knows them all). He loves putting on his brother’s/sister’s/mother’s/father’s shoes and clomping around the house with the declaration “I’m wearing tap shoes.” He puts the poor dog through more trials than any dog deserves and he pleasantly says “OK” when you tell him to clean up his mess. He loves steamed tofu (plain, yuck!) and is happy to point out all his body parts to anyone who will listen… yes, ALL of them. When you ask him how old he is he either says “ten” (he’s 2) or “I’m a big boy.” He’ll sell his siblings for an M&M and he hates it when I read to him at night “No Daddy get me ni-night. MOMMY get me ni-night.”

*HE* is my life.

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Then there’s my wife, who is so far beyond my station in life words fall utterly short. I could blog for 100 years and still not say enough about how lucky I am to have her. She is neat where I am messy. She’s organized where I’m cluttered. She’s calm where I’m obnoxious. She’s strong where I’m weak. She is the rock-solid center of my universe…

…and she still looks damn good in a bikini.

*SHE* is my life.

You see, the world may very well seem like it’s burning, especially when you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you. But my life? My life is big and beautiful and brilliant and wonderful…

 

…because I’m a father.

ERWSTSc

 

-Dork Dad

 

6 Parenting Lessons I Learned From Indiana Jones

5 Aug

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letter My buddy Carter Gaddis (see? I spelled it right this time) at Dadscribe.com recently made a splash with his post “9 Things That Han Solo Taught Me About Being A Dad”. Not to be outdone, fellow dadblogger John Kinnear at AskYourDadBlog.com responded with “6 Parenting Lessons I Learned From Dr. Who.” But listen, gents… there’s another action franchise out there that has lots to teach us about parenting. Let’s not forget:

 

6 Parenting Lessons I Learned From Indiana Jones

 

#1 “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.”

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Is there anything we wouldn’t do for our kids? If we could we would suffer every scraped knee, every broken heart for them. There is nothing more pathetic than seeing your child sick, or more terrifying than seeing your child hurt and knowing that there is absolutely nothing you can do for them. If we ever had to cross a seething pit of poisonous snakes, we would venture down first to make sure it was safe before we ever let our precious ones even step foot inside. But of course we also know that the challenges of life are what make you grow. Without the skinned knees and the broken hearts our children wouldn’t have the tools they will need to navigate adulthood, and so “you go first” moves from the third-person to the first-person. Eventually there comes a time where you have to stop yourself and let your child take the first shaky steps into the dangerous unknown.

 

#2 “Who knows? In a thousand years even YOU may be worth something.”

 

1000 yearsWhat parent doesn’t feel like they’re taken for granted. We are taken for granted. We SHOULD be taken for granted. We pour our heart and souls into our children and of course it goes largely unnoticed by the very young people we are nurturing. At times it can feel soul-sucking. There are 1000 challenges during the day and most of the time we never know which ones we win and which ones we lose. But every once in a while you get that spark of pride when you see your 6yo look an adult in the eyes, offer a firm handshake and say with confidence “Hello. My name is…” We don’t do it for the praise. At best all we can hope for is that someday when they’re adults they’ll look back and say “My mom and dad did a damn good job.”

 

#3 “No time for love, Dr. Jones. We’ve got company.”

 

short roundSometimes I wonder how we even managed to make children #’s 2 and 3. Having children is absolutely draining. As if you weren’t tired enough after a long day of work, you get home and the next two hours are a battle to get them to eat dinner, a battle to get them a bath, a battle to get them in their pajamas and a battle to get them to go to sleep. By the time they’re all tucked in you’re so tired all you want to do is flip on something from TiVo and fall asleep before you get the chance to fast forward through the first commercial. If, by some miracle, you do have the energy for sexy-time, just when things shift into 2nd gear the baby in the other room calls out “Mommy! Daddy! Put my blanket back on!” And let’s not even think about what might happen if you forget to make sure the door’s locked…

 

#4 “Here, take this.” [[hands a torch to Marion]] “Wave it at anything that slithers.”

 

slithersMy buddy just announced that he and his wife are having a girl. This weekend via text message I fondly relayed a conversation I had as a newly minted father of a daughter with a colleague who had only one son. She told me “Here’s the thing. I have only one penis to worry about. You have…” she pointed a finger across the horizon in a long, slow arch, “all those penises to worry about.”

Yeah. Fatherhood.

 

#5 “I don’t know. I’m making this up as I go.”

 

making it upThere are no instruction books for being a parent. Well there are, but none of them are worth a damn. Nature has a way of telling you when to be a parent, but nobody tells you how. Things come up every day that you didn’t expect, things you couldn’t possibly plan for. You question yourself, constantly. You agonize over whether you should have raised your voice earlier. You toss and turn over whether to let the baby cry it out or go in there for the hundredth time. What that miracle positive discipline strategy that all the parents are raving about at school is completely powerless on your own children. We remember what our parents did that seemed to work and avoid the mistakes we thought they made. But that covers about 3% of the total parenting experience. For the rest of it, you’re on your own.

 

#6 “It’s not the years, Honey. It’s the mileage.”

 

not the yearsI look at pictures of myself as a new daddy and think “who the hell is that guy? That was 20 lbs ago. I barely had any gray hair around the temples, and while we’re talking about hair… DAMN! Look at all that hair I had!” Gone are the days of an impromptu romantic weekend getaway. Gone are the days of a mid-day trip to the gym followed by a lavishly cooked dinner. These are the days of wrestling matches on the front lawn, hauling the baby on your shoulders all day around Disneyland and stepping on wayward lego pieces with your bare feet in the middle of the night. I freely admit that I don’t know half the people in “People” who are allegedly famous these days, and all of a sudden I’m censoring my own music playlist, the exact same songs I had no problem playing when I was living under my parents’ roof. There is an entire ocean between 40 with kids and 40 without kids… and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

-Dork Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Me

28 Jul

letter I take most of the pictures in our family. That’s just how it is. I’m more of a “gadget” person than my wife is. That generally means that Daddy doesn’t make it into 95% our pictures of the kids.

Lately though, UnDorkMommy has been making an effort, and I daresay she’s getting better. Framing, composure, lighting… these were all concepts that she had to learn, let alone remembering to pull out the old iPhone at all.

Every once in a while, if you snap enough shots, you get lucky. In those rare instances where someone gets lucky with a camera and I happen to be in the shot with my kids I am that much more grateful.

Last night UnDorkMommy managed to snag a picture that I am very grateful for. There are 100 people in my life, and each of them may see me in a different light. But this picture, this is how I see myself. Like any decent superhero I go to my day-job, slog through the mundane stuff, and then come home to put on my superhero garb and do what it was that I was put on this planet to do. If you ask me, THIS is the real me, and I thank my wife for capturing the moment for me.

real me

Feel free to share this if being a father is the best thing you’ve ever done.

-Dork Dad

Real Househusband

15 Jul

Real Housewife of New Jersey Bethanny Frankle recently blew up the internet with a picture of herself wearing her 4-year-old daughter’s pajamas.

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Dish Nation quickly jumped in with a picture of their own Kellie Rasberry proving she could rock her kids PJ’s just as well. They then issued a challenge to anyone out there to post a picture of themselves with the hashtag #KidsPJs. Well I’m here to say that dads can rock the kids pajamas as hardcore as any real housewife out there.

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Surgeon General’s Warning:

Prolonged exposure to the above image has been known to induce symptoms including but not limited to diabetic shock, hysterical pregnancy, post traumatic stress syndrome, severe disorientation, contact dermatitis and hyperventilation. People with weak hearts and obsessive compulsive disorder should consult a physician before exposure to the above image as complications could be life threatening. Consult your physician if symptoms last longer than four hours.

 

-Dork Dad

Not So Fast

9 Jun

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letter back when I interviewed Ron Fugelseth about his amazing “Toy Train In Space” video, naturally the conversation turned to parenting. Without prompting he used the exact same words to describe his parenting that I constantly think of to describe my own.

“I just want my kids to be able to look back on their childhood and think, ‘That was awesome.’”

Not “good.” Not “great.” Not even “normal.”

Awesome.

When I look back to my own childhood, the experiences that stand out most are those that were outside the range of “normal” childhood experiences. Sure, there was the paper route. There was biking in the streets with my neighborhood friends. There were little league games and cub scout camping trips and piano lessons. All of these make up the tapestry of my childhood in the same way they do for most other kids who have similar (identical) experiences. I am grateful for those experiences.

But nothing can compare to the time that I went flying with my grandfather up in his airplane and he told me to put my hands on the co-pilot’s wheel. He showed me how it was tied to the pilot’s wheel so when he turned his wheel, mine did as well. I remember feeling my hands turn back and forth with the wheel as Grandpa steered the plane gently right and left. I remember watching out the window as the wing dipped in synchronization with the wheel turning in my hands. The wheel turned left again and the plane leveled out and then… the wheel went limp in my hands.

I looked over to Grandpa to see what was going on and he was leaning back in his pilot chair, hands *OFF* the wheel and laced behind his head, cigar puffing away and a huge smile on his face. “That’s it, buddy. You’ve got it. You’re the pilot now.”

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It’s the experiences like that, the ones that every other kid on my block didn’t have, that I remember best. Those are the experiences that made my childhood awesome. Those are the experiences that I want my kids to have. Whether it’s a backyard hovercraft, or a locust dissection science lesson in 2nd grade, or building a Hobbit hole in the backyard (we just launched that project this weekend), I go out of my way to make sure my kids get as much awesome as I can give them.

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For this reason I also feel a natural kinship (if not inferiority complex) to the likes of Ron Fugelseth and Mike Adamick (links provided for your convenience) who inject their steroid-infused, gamma ray creativity into their parenting to provide nothing but “awesome” for their kids. It’s a frame of mind that you can’t necessarily turn off. When I see something I think is awesome my first instinct is to share that with my children. I found myself in that position again this weekend.

Early Saturday morning I found myself at a continuing education course in the staff lounge of a local Oral Surgeon’s office with a half dozen other dentists. There we sipped coffee and orange juice while we watched a particularly interesting and complicated surgical procedure piped into the room on a 60” flatscreen in real time as the procedure was taking place two rooms away. The procedure was fascinating, but for the lay person it would be tough to get past what was essentially a very bloody procedure.

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Nobody would blame you if you cringe at that sort of thing, but it was a room full of dentists. It’s what we do. Sick as it may sound, we all found the procedure completely amazing, and watching it happen in real time was totally awesome.

When the procedure was done we were each handed a flash drive with a video file of the entire procedure and, for better or worse, my very first instinct was “So cool! I can’t wait to get this back, load it up on the computer and show it to my kids!”

*needle scratch off the record* Not so fast there, Tex.

Enthusiasm is great, and I am very lucky to be in a position to provide amazing, out of the ordinary experiences for my kids. But there’s an adage in dentistry: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. My daughter is an amazing human being, with more character strengths than I ever had. But one thing she continues to struggle with is empathy.

She will bug her brothers just for the pleasure of making them scream. She will torment the incredibly patient dog just because she thinks it’s funny. If there was one scoop of ice cream left in the container she would throw elbows and pull hair to get at it first. Thus far the entire universe revolves around her and despite our best efforts to show her otherwise she has yet to figure out that there are other people in the universe, each with needs and feelings that are equally as important as hers.

So yeah… empathy. It’ll come (hopefully) but as of yet it’s still underdeveloped.

As I drove home I wondered if showing a video of a guy getting his rotten teeth pulled, his gums sliced open and peeled back and his bone shaved down to a girl who struggles with empathy might not be the best parenting decision I could make.

Long story short, I didn’t do it and it was the right decision.

Because you know… good parent first, awesome parent second.

 

-Dork Dad

2 Cups Of Love

12 May

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letter In the DorkDaddy household my ability to screw-up Mother’s Day (or anything else for that matter) is legendary. I would like to think that given infinite time and infinite resources I would be able to knock it out of the park every year, but I’ve come to believe that there’s something in my DNA that practically *requires* that I blow it somehow.

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Truth told, genetic predisposition aside, I’m sure my epic Mother’s Day screw-ups would be less “epic” with just the smallest incremental increase in the free-time-factor. Between work and kids, our agendas are scheduled right up to the bleeding edge. I see patients from 7am to 6pm, with about 30 minutes (at home) for lunch. Dinner is at 6:15, then it’s bath time, pajamas, stories, bedtime… suddenly it’s 9:00 and I have just enough time to fall asleep in front of a TiVo’d rerun of “Big Bang Theory” before it’s time to wake up and do it all over again. Weekends are packed with soccer games, swim lessons, birthday parties, homework projects, play dates… Needless to say, as Mother’s Day 2014 crept up this year I hadn’t had the mental bandwidth to dedicate one brain cell towards planning something special for UnDorkMommy.

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May is T-ball season, and this Saturday just happened to be the day we were in charge for snacks/drinks for the team. Naturally neither of us had the time during the week, so Saturday morning rolled around and UnDorkMommy sent me out to the grocery store in my pajamas to buy oranges, crakers and juice for 15 (and Starbucks for UnDorkMommy).

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I spent more time than I care to admit roaming the aisles ((where the **** do they keep the ****ing Pirate’s Booty?!?!)) Eventually I found myself in the baking section and a solution to my Mother’s Day problem presented itself. Thank you Betty Crocker.

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On the way back from the store I dropped off the supplies at my MIL’s house (she’s just around the corner) and informed my wife that after the game I would be taking the big kids with me for an hour or two after the baseball game. Game finished, I swept up Episodes IV and V and we disappeared over to Grandma’s house for a little lesson in following directions, kitchen life-skills and last-minute Mother’s Day shenanigans.

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All told, the experience turned out great. We had a ball on our little project. I was amazed to see how well the kids managed the eggs, measured the ingredients and handled the electric beater. When we were all done it might not have been the prettiest cake ever made, but it was made with an overabundance of love. When we presented it to UnDorkMommy Sunday morning (DorkDaddy knowing full well that she doesn’t particularly “like” cake) she had to admit that the extra helping of love made it the best cake she’d ever had.

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-Dork Dad

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Field Trip

9 Jan

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How does that line go from the old Christmas carol?

“A pair of Hop-a-long boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Bonny and Ben
Dolls that will talk and go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jenn
***AND MOM AND DAD CAN HARDLY WAIT FOR SCHOOL TO START AGAIN***

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”

letter we are currently in my kids’ 3rd and final week of winter break from public school. Most dental offices close down for the two weeks around Christmas and New Year’s, so I got a good, strong 2-week dose of family time. But as much as I love my children, I have to say I practically skipped out of the house Monday morning on my way back to work.

“OKbuhbyekidsgottagotoworkloveyoubuhbye…

…good luck honey.”

butterfly garden

butterfly garden

UnDorkMommy has been doing a herculean job keeping them entertained and out from in front of the TV/computer screen this week. So when Episode IV suggested that they go to the Academy of Sciences yesterday, everyone was onboard.

The Academy is a two hour drive away, so these trips generally mean a long haul both up and back, with a napless baby thrown in for good measure. That’s OK. You’ve gotta do that stuff every once in a while. The text messages I got throughout the day seemed to indicate that the kids were getting along amazingly well, and were having a great time. Cool.

Bunch of goofballs.

Bunch of goofballs.

As it happens, Wednesdays are the days I teach at the dental school in the same city as the Academy of Sciences, and this particular Wednesday was the first day back. Through a cosmic alignment of circumstances we found the entire family in a city 2 hours from home on a day the kids didn’t have school and the dental students didn’t have any high-stakes projects going on. It was an opportunity I just couldn’t’ pass up.

After some bartering via text messages with my wife (there was an over-tired baby and a 2 hour drive home to factor in) UnDorkMommy agreed to drive through the city and swing by the dental school so Daddy could give the big kids a tour (because let’s get real, nothing gives DorkDaddy a thrill like showing off his family).

Daddy came down to the street in his white lab coat and picked them up curbside while the baby stayed (moderately) entertained by a DVD in the minivan with Mommy. I took them to security and got them an official “visitors” badge. We walked through the clinic, a room filled with 200+ dental chairs and positively buzzing with patients, students, staff and instructors. They got to see students of mine, and shake hands with some of my former professors now colleagues. One of the administrators was pushing a cart around, overflowing with free toothbrush samples, so they filled their pockets.

For about 12 seconds I considered taking the kids to the cadaver lab…

…I didn’t. Don’t worry. But I’m still considering it.

Then it was a ride up the elevator to show them what a real dental school classroom looks like. We stepped into the back of the lecture hall – 150 empty seats all facing a projection screen at the front of the room. Episode IV turned up her nose immediately. “This classroom doesn’t look very fun” she said. I suppose I had to concede that one to her.

“Oh, you want to see something really fun, do you?” I replied. The final stop on our tour was the dental school equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Room – the Sim Lab (cue dramatic music). Imagine 150 first year dental students in a room as deep as the eye can see, all working furiously away, drilling little plastic teeth in 150 mannequin head work stations.

Nothing gives me a thrill quite like showing off my family.

Nothing gives me a thrill quite like showing off my family.

We walked through the door and Episode V said “Woah! There are plastic people in here!”

“Yes,” I replied. “And the plastic people are all going to be dentists someday.”

sim

If Episode V looks a little too comfortable in that chair, there’s a reason.

I want to give massive thanks to my students who whisked up my kids, sat them down at the workstations and let them be real dental students, if only for a few minutes. For what it’s worth, I like to tease my dental students with the fact that my 5 year old son has done more real life dentistry than they have. They uaually laugh at me and say “yea right”. Then I show them these pictures and they realize I’m not joking.

She's got him right where she wants him.

She’s got him right where she wants him.

I also want to give massive thanks to UnDorkMommy who tacked on an additional 45 minutes to the daytrip, even though she already had a melting down baby and two tired, overstimulated big kids to deal with. She knows, as I do, that if your kids are going to dream big, they have to be able to picture themselves in those dreams.

Besides, what good is having a dental school if you can’t take your kids to the Sim Lab once in a while…?

 

…or the cadaver lab.

 

-Dork Dad

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