Happy Halloween to all the dorks out there.
emories are the currency of childhood. Whether it’s playing in the dirt on a Saturday or some epic, once-in-a-lifetime story they’ll be telling their grandchildren, it’s our job as parents to provide the experiences that those memories are made of. I make no bones about the fact that I try to tip the scales for my kids in the latter direction as much as possible. Hell, I’ve got an entire blog dedicated to it. Recently the planets aligned in just such a way as to turn what promised to be an awesome childhood memory into something truly epic. This is the story:
The last few years we’ve done the cheezy, family-Halloween thing. Last year we were all Harry Potter characters. Many, many months ago during family movie night watching “Princess Bride” we decided that that was going to be the theme this year. We divvied up the roles and the kids gradually got more excited as they pictured themselves dressing up in the rolls they would play. Meanwhile I started planning in my head how to get my entire family dressed up, because you know I wasn’t about to do no store-bought costumes.
The costume-making began in earnest last month when I took Episode IV out to Goodwill to hunt for Inigo Montoya gear. 20 minutes in the shop and she came out with all this gear. You can see she was already getting into character. The kids got more and more excited as each piece of the puzzle got put together and as Halloween approached.
Slowly but surely, piece by piece, hot-glue burn by hot-glue burn I got all 5 family costumes put together, posting updates on Facebook along the way. During a long drive I heard on NPR an interview with Cary Elwes, the actor who played the main character in the story, the same character Episode V was dressing up as. Apparently he’d just written a book chronicling the making of the movie and was making the publicity rounds. That prompted me to post this picture of Episode V stating “It’s about 80% done. Still a couple details to get nailed down.”
Later that day I got a message from a friend over Facebook:
“You know Cary Elwes is signing copies of his book in the area this week, right?”
My response was less than elegant. “Uh… now I do.”
It was time to swing into action.
A quick glance at the week’s schedule. Yep… it was doable.
There was a panicked trip to the arts and crafts store, a few more hot-glue burns, an emergency Amazon.com purchase, but I was able to get the finishing touches put together on the big kids’ costumes just in the nick of time. On the day of the event I picked the kids up from school and whisked them away into the minivan for a long drive up to where we were headed. 2.5 hours later we made it up to the location to find people already lining up on the side of the building. One thing minivans are good for: changing into your Halloween costume without having to locate a public bathroom.
Episode IV was a little nervous at the prospect of heading out into public in her full costume, which was understandable since there’s a cheesy moustache involved and she’s 8. I gave her the option of dressing down, but she decided she’d go for it and it was a good thing she did. The evening was all uphill from there. As the three of us crossed the street and they came into view of the people in line, the crowd erupted in applause. We worked our way to the back of the line and everyone along the way complimented them on how amazing they looked. The wait was shortened by people coming up asking to take pictures with my kids in their costumes. They ate it up.
As we walked into the building the manager told them “Wow. Those are the best costumes I have ever seen.”
As we took our seats people turned around to tell my kids “Oh my gosh. You guys look amazing.”
Then the main event. Mr. Elwes came out and told some fun stories about making the movie. He was funny, charming, gracious… and 5 minutes into his schtick he stopped suddenly, looked at Episode IV, pointed to her and in front of 300 people in the room said “You, with the moustache. God bless you.” At one point he asked the audience “How many Men In Black are there here tonight?” Episode V stood up and again the crowd cheered.
When it came time to sign autographs and meet the fans he was particularly gracious when Episodes IV and V came around. He came out from behind the table, again to the cheers of the whole crowd, and gave some extra time to my kids. He played with them. Mugged for photos with them, and was an all-around gentleman.
When it was all done I loaded two exhausted kids into the minivan for a very long, very late drive home. Along the way I got this text message from my wife, and I knew it was all worth it:
“No. Who the hell likes getting up at 5:00 am to get bossed around and beat up before going to work?”
My wife asked me if I feel better.
“No. My trainers are incredibly effective. They hit a different muscle group each time so I’m sore EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.”
My wife asked me if I’m going to keep doing it.
“Yes. I’m going to keep doing it.”
The truth is I do feel better. I can get up and down off the ground more easily when I’m wrestling with the kids. I can pick up Episode VI and throw him on my shoulders now without feeling like I’m on the verge of collapse. I’m don’t seem to be losing pounds or inches, but I can feel my arms and shoulders are thicker and my core is more solid… or at least it doesn’t jiggle as much.
I plan on bitching and moaning every step of the way. I’ll never be one of those people who enjoys exercise, but it’s still got to get done. It’s one of those things that responsible people have to do… like paying taxes. Here’s to being a #HealthyDad. Thanks to Anthem Blue Cross, who sponsored the campaign, for including dads in this important discussion about family health care. My views are based solely on my experience as a parent, and not as a medical professional.
he other day I had Episodes IV and V loaded up in the minivan running an errand to who-can-remember-where in order to get who-can-remember-what accomplished when we came upon a large gaggle of middle school students just leaving the school, walking across the intersection where we were parked. Two of the students were lagging behind the pack, and my kids quickly picked up on the slightly different behavior they were exhibiting:
Episode V: “Daddy, why are those two big kids holding hands?”
Episode IV: “It’s because they’re brother and sister, or maybe it’s because they’re best friends!”
Episode V: “Aha! Just like me and Macayla!!”
Yeah, kids. That’s exactly it.
(Editor’s note: Macayla is the little girl from Episode V’s kindergarten class whom he informed us he would be marrying. She’s the same girl who just wrote a bunch of I-love-you’s all over his birthday card. We are currently in negotiations with Macayla’s parents regarding a dowry.)
There are moments when you feel the indelible stamp of history. There are moments when you know that this instant in time is a memory being made. There are moments where you feel so strongly the tight threads of family that connects us through time. You see the little hand in yours and you feel what it means to be a proud father. Then you see the other little hand in his hand and you feel what it means to be a proud son.
When my father, my son and I all held hands I felt the enormous weight of the present and the tremendous responsibility of being there… of being there then, in that moment, feeling it and sharing it for what it was, right there and then. I thought of how proud I am to share my children with my parents, and of how proud he was to share us with his.
I thought of how I missed my father’s father – of how I missed his old, tired, weathered hands which I held and knew so well, now some 20 years gone, and I dedicated a few steps to the memory of him, the missing man from our hand-linked chain of history. I thought of how much my father must miss him, sharing his children and his children’s children with his own father, and I related to my father as the son of a man deeply loved. I looked over at my father, holding my son’s hand and I dared to hope that someday my son will want to share his children with me. I imagined what it would be like to someday hold my son’s son’s hand in the same way, and I related to my father as the father of a son deeply loved.
You cannot fight the relentless progression, and it is just as right to feel the stinging absence of those long gone as it is to anticipate with joy those memories to come. But it is the moment, THIS moment, in the here and now, this is what we live for.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
y 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:
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.
What 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.”
Sometimes 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…
My 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.”
There 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.
I 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.