Tag Archives: daddy blog

Transcendence On the Way to Preschool

Claire

In life there are few moments of transcendence, or perhaps better said, there are few moments of transcendence that we recognize and commit to memory, and even fewer that are clear enough to shift our existential bearings and redefine our hopes.

When they do happen, they’re usually fleeting, they’re often mundane (given our inability to see the forest for the trees), and unless our emotions and spirit communicate, they’re usually glanced over so as to leave no trace of meaning.

For me the dark glass is lowered and transcendence is recognized almost always in the presence of my children, in particular aside my oldest daughter Claire (four years old). It happens simply, when undeterred joy emanates from my daughter and I feel partly to blame; when somehow my being her dad and being present in her life plays a role in it all.

It has happened at a pizza parlor as Claire watches her younger sister Maren do the funniest thing ever: refuse to keep her feet off the table. I’ve been wise enough to notice it as Claire is caught in a whirlwind of leaves, a recently raked pile behind her, the remnants of fall clinging to her hair and eyebrows.

Most recently it happened in the car, on the way to preschool. Claire and I have a tradition: We crank the volume up on the radio and act wild. We do this to get our crazies out—something both of us need to do before entering the real world where calmness and put-togetherness are most admired. A hit song from a few years ago comes on and we’re both dancing; we’re both unhinged. I look back and catch a glimpse of her, lost in the moment without concern. To make her laugh, I look forward and scream. I pretend the traffic cones on the side of the road are a brick wall and I’m about to hit them. I’m nowhere near them and I hit nothing but the explosion is real; it’s Claire in the back seat, head back, erupting with laughter; she’s like an infant guffawing for the first time at something that’s only funny in the beginning: a coo, a song, a bark, the tearing of paper, an older sister shaking her head inches away.

To see this innocent, explosive, in-the-moment elation was too much for me; I sobbed. I was happy. I was sad. I was nostalgic. I was worrying about the day she wouldn’t think a fake collision with traffic cones was funny anymore. I was in limbo.

I was no longer in the car. I was no longer on earth. I was outside looking in. I entered a realm that felt like home in a strange land. The meaning was clear and it was mine. And then I watched my Claire put on her backpack and walk toward school, a big girl.

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I’m Creating A Ham

As a parent I’m interested in helping my child discover and develop talents and skills. Rather than force my own interests on her—her existing in the same space as me is influence enough—I do my best to notice and point out things she does well or shows interest in.

Dancing

For example, from a young age Claire has loved to dance, more so than most little ones. So I made a point to encourage her dancing. I took the time to compliment her on her moves—even if it was nothing more than an over excited head bob. Today, she still loves to dance, and I love to dance with her. Her focus and ability to remember the little moves I’ve taught her is quite impressive. Where there’s music, she’ll be the first and last person dancing. I love it when she says, “daddy, I wanna dance wit you.”

Hamming

But dancing is not all she loves or does well. She is also a ham. My two-year-old daughter is constantly doing and saying things that are hilarious. Trouble is, and true to our family heritage, she’s doing most of it intentionally, so she knows (or thinks) she’s funny. I’m partially to blame. I see humor as a very important talent—it helps us find joy, companionship (my wife certainly wasn’t smitten by my looks when we met), it’s fun!, it serves as a stress reliever and a coping mechanism… “I could go on forever baby” (name that movie reference).

So, if Claire is good at “being funny,” why not encourage her sense of humor. When she does something that cracks me up I honestly tell her, “that was funny Claire,” or “you’re funny,” and she knows and appreciates what I mean. She is now stopping me to say, “daddy, watch” right before she makes a funny face, body movement, or strange voice. She is being a comedian (I’m sure future school teachers are just going to LOVE me).

Vine Time With Daddy

Another thing she loves is “daddy time.” Every so often, when Rinda is busy or tired, I’ll take Claire out on a daddy-daughter date. This could be dinner, shopping, a simple walk around downtown, or just hanging out at home. She loves it. In fact, sometimes we’ll all be walking out the door and Claire will push Rinda back inside and say, “seeya in a bit mommy, I going with daddy.”

So, knowing that she loves being funny and doing stuff with Dad, I decided to start making short six second videos using Vine. Claire and I act and Rinda films and directs. Claire loves watching back the videos and repeating her lines. It’s really silly and really fun, and here is the evidence:

(Hover over the image and click the speaker icon in the top left corner for sound.)

Did you like the videos? We plan on making more, so keep an eye on the channel. Do you have fun activities you like to do with your child or family member (nephew, niece, etc.)? Tell me in the comments below or else… JK, but seriously, tell me.

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Looking Forward to Sugar Cereal and Life

The father of my childhood friend was a genius. He never used words like saxicolous, I never saw his SAT scores or overheard a neighbor talk about his IQ, but I knew, even at the age of seven, that he was brilliant. Today, my opinion of him remains the same; the only thing that has changed is my reason for believing he was so smart.

My friend’s dad did the shopping for his family, but it was more than buying eggs. He had a rotation. Every time he went to the grocery store, he’d take one of his three sons. That son was his personal assistant and the official family cereal-chooser. When my friend told me he could choose any cereal (that he wasn’t limited to Cheerios, Cornflakes, and Rice Krispies) and that, when they were in the check-out lane, his dad would always lean down and encourage him to select any snack, I about lost it. Who was this man and did he teach courses on genius fathering?

A dad that let his son choose whatever cereal he wanted and candy — images of Butterfingers, Sweetarts, and Big League Chew electrified my being  — had to be the next Gandhi, Mother Teresa’s Uncle, or at least the long lost brother of the Ninja Turtles. He was giving and awesome  — gawesome. I knew he was the wisest of men; he got us little guys; he won over his sons (and me) with sugar cereal and gawesomeness.

Today, I still admire my friend’s dad. I look back and still conclude that he was brilliant, giving, and awesome — I won’t combine all three — but, what I realize now is that, his smarts had nothing to do with grocery stores, bubble gum, or even sugar cereal.

Starting a family and becoming a father has let me in on a secret. Because of his father, my friend had something to look forward to every month. Isn’t the magic behind traditions, holidays, birthdays, vacations, weekends, and movie releases found in the excitement that comes with looking forward? I respond with a loud, boisterous, and reassuring YES.

Some might be thinking, “big deal.” Well, I am thinking, “What a discovery!”

Want to know why last year’s birthday wasn’t nearly as exciting as your tenth birthday? I don’t know about other people, but these years, with a few exceptions where rude people remind me I’ll be turning ___ in so many months, I hardly even think about my birthday until the month before. Unlike my worry-free younger years, life distracts me until it’s basically too late. I know this isn’t the case for everyone; there are plenty of individuals who still get giddy at the thought of a birthday six months away (and I applaud them), but why?

My childhood birthday was awesome because I looked forward to it. I looked forward to much more than a day; I looked forward to the the events of the day (and I knew them well). Birthdays in my family included, but were not limited to, going to a dollar movie with all my sibs, ordering 5 Buck Pizza and buying generic grape, orange, and root beer soda.  It included a cake or lemon meringue pie (for me) with candles on top, and usually some small, but ever so exciting, toy. It may not sound that great to some but it was heaven on earth to me. I loved birthdays. If my next birthday followed my childhood birthday agenda to a tee, I would be thrilled.

So what does it all mean?

The idea for this post came after Rinda and I had a great conversation about easy ways to make life wonderful. We concluded that starting and maintaining family traditions was key. Rinda’s family is pro when it comes to getting excited about traditions. The amazing thing is, their traditions are simple but make things so much more enjoyable. For example, whenever they go to the beach they always order “the best” calamari from the same dumpy old bar; when they go to Disneyland, they can’t leave without eating “the best” sour cherries and churros in the world — they get more excited about the food than the rides. Brilliant.

Rinda and I want Claire’s life to be simple but ever so exciting. How can we help make that a reality? We have challenged ourselves to start and maintain a simple family tradition for every month of the year. These traditions will be planned, marked on the calendar, and spoken of regularly. As the years go by, more traditions can join the table.

This last Christmas was incredible for many reasons. My whole family (with the exception of Christian, that jerk) was present, we had a schedule of events and we did them! Most exciting — and I promise I will post about all of this in detail — were the returning traditions: our annual Home Alone movie watching Marathon (1 and 2 back to back with Little Nero’s Pizza, throwback Pepsi, and ice cream sundaes), our Christmas Eve Twas the Night Before Christmas gift exchange, and the Christmas Eve cracker and cheese fest.

See what I mean? Simple things to look forward to = an exciting life to live.

Traditions can start today. You can call making a new, homemade Christmas ornament each year a tradition, even if Great, Great, Great, Grandfather Merle, from the Highlands of Scotland, never did it. I give the world my permission to do so.

Start traditions. Start living. Find ways to look forward to life.

What are some of your simple or not-so simple traditions? What do you look forward to? Please share in the COMMENTS!

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: Rinda wanted records (vinyl) for Christmas. I bought her two. To trick her on Christmas day, I also bought a calendar that looks like a record when wrapped. When she was opening it, I told her to be careful, it could break; she was thinking “this is definitely a record,” she was wrong; it was a calendar jam-packed with pictures of wolves in their natural habitat.

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I’m Giving You This Baby

When I was six-years-old my first little brother was born (I had two older brothers and two younger sisters). Christian showed up 7 weeks premature and was placed in an incubator for ten days so his lungs could properly develop. When he finally came home healthy, I joined the ranks of boys who love the idea of their “first baby brother.” That didn’t prepare me for what happened next.

Days later.

I was holding Christian when my mother gave him to me. Let me explain. My mother turned to me and very matter-of-factly said something along the lines of, “He’s yours. It’ll be your responsibility to take care of him. I’m giving him to you, to be your little buddy.” Most readers are probably thinking, oh cute, I was thinking oh crap. Well, I probably didn’t think the word “crap,” but I perfectly recall my emotional response–I was scared. I was still little. How was I supposed to take care of someone else? Retrospectively, it reminds me of Bill Cosby’s comedy bit, where the Lord asks Noah to build a ship and stock it with two of every animal, and all Noah can respond with is “riggght.” I’m sure my mom was just being cute, encouraging her 3rd son to take an active role in the life of her 4th son, but I took it all very serious and very literal. In my mind, it was my job to provide for Christian, to protect him. Whatever I did, he did, wherever I went, he followed, and I was okay with it. I even taught him karate lessons (a great excuse to practice all the moves I learned from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). I stopped calling him my little buddy when he grew taller than me, joined the navy, got ripped, and then covered his muscles in tattoos, but I still consider him to be one of my best friends. That life experience, and my response to it, was close to home when my first child (Claire) was born.

From left to right: my friend, Jeremy “Dangerous” Warner, Christian, me.

Claire was ripening inside my wife for 286 days (5 days past her due date) and labor was 30 hours long. It could be said that she was long-a-coming. [Read full birth story here.] I was more excited to meet my daughter than I was to see Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 2. When I held Claire for the first time I didn’t know what to feel. I was happy, but she wasn’t mine yet. I had just witnessed her dramatic entrance into the world but I didn’t feel like a dad yet. I went with her to be cleaned and it was there that it hit me–I was this beautiful creature’s father. And she was beautiful, even though she kept sticking her tongue out (definitely my kid). As I observed them wipe her off, put her in a diaper, and then had the opportunity to wash her hair, I knew–she was mine; it was my responsibility to care for her; she was my little gal.

If I felt little as a kid, when my mom told me to care for Christian, I felt miniscule when I took the freshly cleaned Claire in my arms. I felt like the Little Drummer Boy, anxious to present my best gift, but doubting the worth of anything I had to offer. However, feelings of inadequacy melted away as quick as diapers needed changing, baby needed comforting, and mother needed love. I took to fatherhood like crows take to rotting roadkill. I’m not saying fatherhood is easy or that I am particularly good at it, and I still find myself muttering what were You thinking sending her to me?, but all in all, I feel great (thanks largely in part to Claire’s awesome mother, Rinda).

People love to say “your life will NEVER be the same,” and they’re right (to a certain extent), but what they forget to say is, your life will never be the same and you won’t want it to be (90 percent of the time). There’s something incredible and inexplicable that happens to your life and home when a baby is a part of it and it’s worth the differences. Still, be ready for your house to smell like baby poo, no matter how often you take out the trash full of baby tacos.

I plan to write a future post that goes more in to detail about my at-home adventures with Claire (including examples of my teasing or “terrorizing,” as Rinda would call it), but for now, I’ll leave you with a photograph of Claire (it was her idea).

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: I firmly believe that only Robert Redford and people with dark hair should grow facial hair (the 70’s was a different story). The rest of us look like schmucks. I have dirty blonde hair. My unfunny husband moment for the last 4 months: a beard. I’ve always wanted a beard and it literally cracks me up every time I look in the mirror–I look terrible in a beard. Sweet Rinda makes sure to drop little hints about how handsome I look clean-shaven but it’s not working, this joke is too good. I promised not to shave until after Christmas (for no real reason). Maybe this fall time beard growing can become a lasting tradition. Either way, I’ll be sad when It’s gone, my funny points will go down drastically.

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