I’m not a Sitcom Dad

 

Fifteen minutes before it was time to leave for school yesterday, my daughter decided that she needed some make-up to “look pretty” for her teachers. Immediately after cleaning that up, with repeated face-palms for not getting a picture first, I watched her help herself to an open Gatorade bottle in the fridge and dribble half of it down her shirt.

Alaina likes to dress herself when she wakes up in the morning. These are very rarely the same outfits that she ultimately is taken into public wearing. Picking out her clothes for school can sometimes be a fairly time consuming process, partly because she seems to be outgrowing her clothes at an alarming rate, and partly because compromising with a three year old independent diva isn’t achieved quickly. These things take time and careful consideration.

Her mind was set on a Hello Kitty skirt. There was no going back from that, so there ensued a frantic search for a solid color T-shirt.  Here in New England we skipped spring this year, jumping from 40 to 70 degrees in the past week. Her summer clothes are neither sorted or easily accessible.  After throwing a handful of size 4 shirts around her room, I gave up, found a thin long sleeve shirt, and off we went.  This was the final result:

 

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Raise your hand if your first thought after seeing that picture was “what kind of dumbass dad would dress his little girl like that in 70 degree weather?”

If your hand is up, raise the other one if you would have TOLD the daddy picking his kid up that you felt that way.

Anybody with two hands in the air is now invited to wave them around, do the hokey-pokey, and feel free to browse some of the older posts in my archives. You may not like the rest of this one.

Still here? Great!

To be fair, I am paraphrasing the woman’s words, but the condescending tone of voice is impossible to replicate on paper.  I was given a several minute lecture about how the students spend the last twenty minutes of the day outside and need to be dressed appropriately or they would have to stay inside.

My daughter had been running around and playing “chase” for the past twenty minutes.  Her cheeks were red. She was probably really looking forward to an ice cream sandwich when we returned home. I think we were still well inside the safe zone regarding permanent brain damage from heat stroke.

I stood there and took it on the chin, sightly embarrassed as there were plenty of other parents present.  I was mainly just afraid to speak. There is no telling what may have spewed forth had I opened my mouth, but I know myself well enough to be fairly certain it would not have been appropriate for children’s ears. I’m not sure the same level of self-control would have been present had my daughter been kept inside.

I have to wonder if my wife would have received the same lecture. Was this just another example of somebody stereotyping dads as blundering fools, gallantly trying their best until mommy saves the day? Two of her three school days I’m the parent dropping her off and picking her up. I’m not a television sitcom goofball father trying to keep his kid’s names straight while mommy has a spa day. Alaina didn’t have cold pizza for breakfast that morning. I didn’t use a spray bottle and a hairdryer to clean her ass. Yes, I’m a dad, but I’m perfectly capable of dressing my daughter every morning. I also do her hair and lots of other stuff that a lot of dads are doing nowadays.

Maybe I was being too sensitive. Her usual teacher was out yesterday and perhaps the assistant was just having a bad day. Perhaps she wasn’t trying to help out a helpless father.  Perhaps, or maybe we still have a ways to go before dads are looked at as equally competent parents.

I’ve watched all the same comedies. Home Improvement, According to Jim, Malcolm in The Middle.  Everybody Loves Raymond was the worst.  I’m closer to Phil Dunphy than Homer Simpson.

When she ran over to us, the woman actually asked Alaina if she was hot, trying to underscore her point apparently. To show me my mistake.  Alaina said no.

Criticize my parenting in front of my kid again and it may be unsuitable for network television. This is what real fathering looks like, and it’s a lot different from what you see on TV.

 

 

I Want Superpowers!

superheros

 

 

As everybody in the free world is aware, Avengers 2 opened this past weekend. I haven’t seen it yet, but definitely plan to once the crowds thin out a bit. I’m not sure when exactly it became cool to be into superheroes, but my “I told you so’s” in 1989 when Tim Burton’s Batman came out certainly didn’t seem to help my cause any.

Whether you know Stan Lee’s original origin story for Thor or just think Chris Hemsworth looks pretty good dressed as a Viking, everybody has at one point or another wished they had superpowers. It’s part of the appeal of these movies. Who has never wanted super-strength or the ability to fly?

When I was young I would have used my powers for good. I’d have chased down bad guys and saved people from burning buildings. Flight, super-speed, laser-eyes; these are the powers I would have wanted. At some point invisibility would have been my pick, but that’s just because twelve year old boys are little perverts. All of them.

As I grew older, I got more selfish. There comes an age when you still feel invincible but but it becomes increasingly clear that you are not. I went to a lot of funerals for too many young people in my late teens and early twenties. A healing factor or some type of invulnerability would have been high on my list.

At thirty I would have wanted to time travel. It’s not a conventional super power, usually achieved only with a machine, but not completely unheard of. The X-Men have been going back in time and getting do-overs for years. I had quite a few things I would have changed about my twenties.

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Last week my wife and I picked up Alaina at a park, where she was playing with two of her cousins. After twenty minutes or so of the three kids playing beautifully in a sand box, my brother’s two year old son stood up, walked over to an area covered in woodchips, calmly laid down, and did nothing but roll around until he was filthy. It was hysterical because it wasn’t my kid, but also had me wondering what the hell he was thinking. Was he scratching an itch, looking for a reaction afrom his mom, pretending to be a steamroller? Did it just seem like a fun idea? I want to know.

Now that I am a husband and a father, the superpower I want is telepathy.I am completely fascinated by the ongoing development of Alaina’s thought process. I want to know what goes through her three year old mind. What level of complexity is actually in there? How much does she understand of the world around her? Why isn’t she more scared of it? Does she really mess with me as much as I think she does?

I’d have to use it sparingly with the wife and teenager, with a secondary power of very thick skin, but how much better of a husband and father could I be with an occasional peek inside their heads? Some inside knowledge of what they really wanted and expected of me? I have a secret for you ladies. As dense as you think men are, we’re probably even worse at figuring you out than you think.

So there you have it, Beyonders, Celestials, and other empowering space gods, I’ll take telepathy please. (If you want to throw in a little anti-aging or extra energy I’ll take that too.)

 

prof x

 

 

 

 

Us against Them

 

My wife and I attended a “Jackie and Jill” this past weekend, and I had a whole blog post written in my head about great that is. Every high school now seems to have support groups or LGBT clubs to help kids be comfortable with who they are. Kayla has several gay friends and thinks absolutely nothing of it.

When I was her age I knew homosexual people, but I didn’t know it. It was something they hid out of fear of persecution or mockery. To our collective shame, they were probably right. I don’t know for sure how my fifteen year old self would have responded to somebody in our small community coming out, but I’m not naive enough to think it would have been with the same nonchalance shown by the teenagers I observe now.

I was going to write about how multi-racial both kids’s classes are. Alaina may yet embarrass me with an inappropriate question at an inopportune time, but she seems to accept that some of her friends have different skin tones the same as she accepts that we have several different hair colors in the family.

It was a nice little optimistic observation about how far we’ve come in the years between my childhood and those of my children.

 

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But then Baltimore went up in flames before I had a chance to put those thoughts to paper and I realized we still have a long ways to go.

 

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What amazed me the most was how quickly and tribally everybody seemed to “take sides”, each blaming the other. Depending on who you listened to either racist white cops are randomly targeting black teens for execution or inner city youths will use any excuse possible to riot and loot.  I’ve seen comments about liquor and cigarette shops being among the first to be “protested”. I’ve seen rebuttal comments about the 4.2 million dollars in damage that mostly white rioters caused after the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals in Vancouver. There is endless nonsense about what “white people” and “black people” do differently and which “side” is at fault. Al Sharpton and Bill O’Reilly throw gasoline on the fire of a burning city, gleefully spouting nonsense rhetoric aimed at their respective audiences.

I’m a middle-aged, middle-class, middle-minded white guy that grew up in a small cow town in Connecticut. I have no idea what it is like to be either a policeman or resident of an inner-city.  People come to my website for humorous stories about my children, not social-political commentary.

But I’m proud of how accepting my teenager daughter is of other people and I hope to raise the toddler the same.  We really have come a long way in my lifetime and feel confident that my children will one day be able to say the same.

I also want to congratulate whoever is raising this little boy.

 

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You’re doing it right.

 

Daddy Time

Whenever I’m talking to women with small children, we spend a lot of time swapping stories about what our littles are doing or things that we’ve done recently with them.  When I talk to guys with small children we spend a lot of our time talking about things that we USED to do.

I USED to do a lot of things. I own a kayak I’ve used a few times in the past several years. A mountain bike I’ve used less. Wednesday nights used to be spent playing for an 8-ball billiards team, Thursdays were 9-ball. My most recent Wednesday night out consisted of me sitting cross legged on a faded rug listening to these guys tell stories.

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I admired what they were doing and that’s my kid dancing in the front row, but it reminded me a little too much of these guys telling stories.

 

will ferrell

 

 

With the weather finally turning I’ve been reading a lot of Facebook and blog posts about how happy people are to finally be able to get back to running. About how good it feels to be back participating in an activity that is “for them.” A little time away from the family doing something they enjoy. I don’t fully understand the appeal of running without somebody actually chasing you, but the idea of some “daddy time” sounds pretty good to me.

There is always a long list of things that I hope to accomplish during the toddler’s three hours of school time.  Things such as cleaning the bunny cage or clearing leaves off the pool cover that seem to go much smoother without a “helper.” My plan yesterday was to get a little more painting done on the back deck, a project that began in September.

Instead I played nine holes of golf. There was enough of a light rain falling to justify not painting and the fact is that we all DO need some time for ourselves sometimes. It might not be cool to say out loud but parenting is a real pain in the ass sometimes. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, but it’s a pain in the ass.

It was pretty cold and windy. I played alone and I played poorly on a course that I really can’t stand. But I didn’t throw any clubs and for a two hour period I worried about nobody else but me and occasionally the guys in the next fairway my ball seemed headed towards.

 

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Something in Common

It would seem that girls twelve years apart in age wouldn’t have much to fight over. There are no borrowed clothes, no toys to fight over, no jealousies over mutual friends or boys.  They should get along famously. Somehow these two seem to be able to find ways to get on each other’s nerves anyway.  It remains inconceivable to Alaina that anybody can be in the same area as her without devoting 100% of their attention her way. Its inconceivable to Kayla that she should look up from her phone unless dinner is ready. Alaina’s tenacity is impressive in this regard. If she feels that somebody should be paying attention to her, she will not be ignored.

So there was some trepidation when a rare occasion arose that required us to leave them alone over several hours.  Kayla has watched her sister for small periods of time with no catastrophic occurrences,  but I didn’t want this to turn into four hours of nonstop bickering between the two.

This would also be the first time Kayla was solely in charge of dinner and bedtime, two of the most notoriously difficult times of day. I had faith in Kayla’s abilities, but was unsure of Alaina’s appreciation of her authority. She’s shown more acceptance  recently of the fact that they are not equal and that she will receive additional privileges as she gets older, but that didn’t mean she was going to listen to her sister just because we told her to.

Of course, everything went perfectly fine.  Kayla will be turning sixteen this year, an age that historically has been associated with a closer proximity to adulthood. She hasn’t always impressed with her responsibility, but also hasn’t been given many opportunities. Just because she still forgets her house keys in the morning doesn’t mean that she will forget her sister is in the next room and go take a nap.

Alaina will be four next month, a concept I still can’t wrap my head around. She can still be very difficult and doesn’t always understand why she can’t have candy for breakfast or why we won’t drive her to the park just because she is in the mood for some bigger slides, but she does know she can’t decide to walk there just because mommy and daddy aren’t home.

I think the biggest factor we failed to consider was the girl’s pride. It made Kayla feel good that we trusted her and I think Alaina felt the same. They both felt like we were treating them as “big girls.”

My girls may not have a lot in common, but the one thing all children share is a desire for their parents to be proud of them. We were.

the girls

 

 

 

Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms