Tag Archives: parenting

Holding Hands

9 Sep

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letter The 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.

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-Dork Dad

(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

4 Sep

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letter There are moments.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

-Dork Dad

 

Finding Comfort In Fatherhood

14 Aug

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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.

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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

Do You Science?

10 Jun

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letter big surprise: I used to be a middle school science teacher before I was a dentist. I know – shocker, right? So it’s safe to say I know a thing or two about the “school science fair.”

In fact, surprising though it may seem, my undergraduate degree has nothing to do with science. I was an elementary education major. (Long story. Don’t ask.) As I went through my program it became pretty obvious that smart as my fellow education majors may have been, and as cool as they though science might have been, let’s just say that science wasn’t really their thing. In a world where teachers need to worry about standardized tests , overpopulated classrooms, shrinking budgets and differentiating individualized instruction, it’s no wonder that come science-fair time the finer points of what science *REALLY* is tend to get lost in the noise.

At my kids’ elementary school students get their first taste of the science fair in 2nd grade (at the very end of the year when their attention couldn’t be less focused). “Science” as an entity looms large in our house, so when the assignment finally came Episode IV was all charged up and I, in turn, was all charged up to make this a *REAL* learning experience, rather than an end-of-the-year afterthought.

Kids that age think science is just something cool where some person in a white coat does something dramatic with dry ice, or liquid nitrogen, or giant 3-inch locusts (all of which I have done in their classrooms). That in itself is wonderful. It sparks their interest and gets them excited. But science isn’t a sideshow. Science is about asking questions, rationally collecting information, and then shaping our understanding of the world based on where that information leads us. From that perspective, the first thing kids need to learn is how to formulate a proper (testable) question.

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Case in point, a real conversation at our dinner table:

“So, have you thought about what you want to do for the science fair?”

Episode IV thinks for a bit then, going for the gross-out factor, “How about we get a cow eyeball…” (we had talked about dissecting a cow eyeball for a classroom lesson) “and a human eyeball and dissect them both and see what the difference is!”

Gross, though not surprising if you know this kid. Clearly she was not in the right headspace and needed some proper instruction about what a real scientific experiment is. That sparked a great conversation around the table about control, and variables (two concepts that are most definitely within the grasp of a 2nd grader if presented to them properly) and how to formulate and test a hypothesis. We brainstormed for a while and eventually settled on an idea expanding on the tried-and-true mentos and diet cola experiment.

“CANDY AND SODA — Is there anything that makes it explode better than mentos?”

DorkDoggy got in on the action too

DorkDoggy got in on the action too

Now it should be said that I am also well aware of the “obviously-the-parent-did-this-science-fair-project” factor, and I was determined to let Episode IV do as much of the project as she could. But kids also need guidance and instruction. If someone doesn’t show them HOW to set up a proper experiment, and doesn’t show them how to rationally interpret the data, they’ll never learn anything. So from concept to presentation, letting her do as much work as possible without leaving her floundering, we definitely took a “let me show you how to do a proper science fair project” approach for this first foray into the world of science fairs.

Mentos and diet soda -- it never gets old.

Mentos and diet soda — it never gets old.

That Saturday morning I loaded Episodes IV and V into the car and off we went to the candy aisle at Target. There they picked out as many different candy types as they could get their hands on, and we cleared the shelf of 2 liter bottles of diet coke. Giddy at the prospect of exploding soda (and leftover candy) they bounced in their seats until the car pulled unexpectedly into the Home Depot parking lot. “Why are we here, Daddy?”

Jellybeans and soda... not so great.

Jellybeans and soda… not so great.

“Where else can you get an eight foot piece of border molding and a roll of black duct tape?” They blinked at me, incredulous. “Trust me,” I said.

We got back to the house and, eager though they were to tear into the candy, I made them watch/help as we used to duct tape to mark out two inch stripes on the border molding. “How are we going to measure the explosions if we don’t have something to measure it with?” I stood the zebra board up next to me and the light of understanding clicked on in both of them. We spent the rest of the afternoon gleefully exploding diet coke all over the backyard, taking pictures, eating candy, and writing our results down in a log.

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…and wouldn’t ya’ know it? We got a result that none of us were expecting (OK… maybe I had a suspicion, but they didn’t). It turns out that the thing that makes diet cola explode even more dramatically than mentos is a spoon full of BAKING SODA!!

After dinner as the kids were crashing from their afternoon-long sugar binge, drunk on science, sunshine and saccharine, we skipped the usual bedtime YouTube clip and snuggled into Mommy and Daddy’s bed to watch a TiVo’d episode of “Mythbusters.”

Baking Soda And Diet Soda -- Who Knew?

Baking Soda And Diet Soda — Who Knew?

Truly there is no show better suited to entertain the whole family, and joyfully illustrate the sound principals of the scientific method. That night my kids went to bed with visions of glorious science in their heads.

Addendum:

Fast-forward a couple of days. I was tooling around the internet when I discovered that the Mythbusters live stage show was coming back to our area. UnDorkMommy and I went to see it from the nosebleed seats a couple of years ago and it was great fun. We both agreed that it was totally family-friendly and perfect for a kid just about the same age as Episode IV.

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So I went into high gear and found that there were still a scant few awesome VIP-level seats available. One swipe of the credit card later and Episode IV and I have front-row seats to see Adam and Jamie bust some myths live on stage in fantastic Mythbusters fashion. And if that wasn’t enough, the VIP level seats also come with “Meet The Mythbusters” access. That’s right. After the show Episode IV will get to go backstage and meet Adam and Jamie in person, the very guys who performed the definitive television experiment on mentos and soda.

When I told Episode IV about it she said to me “Do you think they’ll be interested in our experiment? Can we show Adam and Jamie what we did?”

“I know they will, sweetheart, and yes we can.”

 

-Dork Dad

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