Tag Archives: father

Little Endings

“How do cars go?”

“Could I sit on a cloud?”

“What happens to my poop when I flush it down the toilet?’

For the last three years, I have driven either one or both of my kids to and from daycare five days a week.  Roughly seven and a half hours each week shuttling between our house in the suburbs to downtown.  In that time I have answered (or attempted to answer) 976,324 random questions, mediated countless arguments and listened to “Mashed Potato” by The Wiggles more times than should be legally allowed under the Geneva Convention.

Today, however, marked Kate and Matthew’s last day at daycare.  Jen will be staying home with the kids as Matthew gets ready to start Kindergarten, so I will be making the trek to work by myself for the first time in years.

And it makes me….sad.

 

IMG_2013

My rearview for the last three years.

 

 

Will I miss the floor of our car looking like a bad day at the Nabisco factory or me reaching blindly under the backseat to retrieve a dropped stuffed animal while I drive on the interstate?  No.  Although that is closest thing I probably get to exercise these days.

But for forty minutes in the morning and forty minutes in the afternoon I get to hear about their day, answer a bunch of silly questions, listen to Kate sing, and force them to listen to (and enjoy) music that will be sure to keep them out of touch with their peers for years to come.

Sure, every once in a while you need to get off the highway to take them to pee in a truck stop bathroom only to have them tell you that they no longer need to go.  But where else can you have your son call out a grizzled truck driver for not washing his hands, and have a Hell’s Angels reject tell your kids that “most people are basically disgusting.”  Thank you Mr. Biker Man.  A solid life lesson.

I’m sure that, in time, I will learn to love the quiet time again, but for now I will feel a little twinge of loneliness when I see the billboard featuring the picture of a balding, 60-year-old insurance salesman who my kids swear looks just like me.

bobjones

Me: “I think you mean it looks like Grandpa?”  Matthew:  “No, it looks like you.”

Most of all, this last ride reminds me of all of the little endings that are such a big part of being a parent.  It is so easy to focus on the last time your kids will need you to change their diaper, or ride on your shoulders or want you to tuck them in that it can be easy to overlook the little beginnings.

Matthew, Kate, Jen and I are all beginning a new part of our lives, and it is important to stop and enjoy that and not just fixate on the end of something else.

Does anybody want a Wiggles CD?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fatherhood, Humor(?), Parenting

Who’s that girl?

Growing up, there were a few things I knew a lot about: “Star Wars,” comic books and really bad haircuts. Consequently, there was one thing that I knew next to nothing about: girls.

So, just over a month ago, fate decided to give me a crash course on the subject of girls when my wife Jen and I welcomed our daughter Kate into the world.

I'm starting to suspect that Jen began buying baby headbands quite a while ago.

I’m starting to suspect that Jen began buying baby headbands quite a while ago.

As with our son Matthew, Jen and I decided to be surprised by the sex of the baby, even though Jen spent the length of the pregnancy obsessed with figuring out the mystery. She remains convinced that if we had an ultrasound machine at the house that she could not only determine the sex, but also diagnose the maladies of others. As she reminds me frequently, she is practically a doctor.

While everyone in our families was pulling for a little girl, the odds seemed to be stacked against it as my side of the family has, to this point, produced enough boys to field a hockey team. (I had to look that up, as I know nothing about sports in general and hockey in particular. Please refer to the first paragraph.) But somebody up there really wanted me to paint my old bedroom pink.

While the lead-up to Matthew’s arrival two years earlier was filled with preparations, list-making and general fears of being unprepared, we both took a somewhat more lackadaisical approach the second time around. Like me working on a grade school science project and spending two hours watching “Night Court” re-runs and 10 minutes spray painting some Styrofoam globes, I felt that I could get everything I needed done in the two weeks leading up to the due date.

In our defense, it was a whole lot easier to build cribs and read baby books when a two-year old wasn’t asking you a hundred times a day to open the garage door.

How many 10 minutes conversations about not having the ability to open other people's garage doors can you have in a week?  The answer may surprise you.

How many 10 minutes conversations about not having the ability to open other people’s garage doors can you have in a week? The answer may surprise you.

With no emergency bag packed for the hospital, and no newborn laundry or bottles washed, we arrived at the night before our final ultrasound. After a full night with Matthew, capped off by a particularly excellent reading of “My Nose, My Toes and Me,” Jen informed me that the only thing she wanted for dinner was White Castle. And as a loving husband, and a lover of terrible food, I was more than happy to oblige. What better way to end the evening than by patronizing a restaurant whose customers and employees all look like they are on their way home from a parole hearing?

The next morning, Jen and I went to the hospital for the ultrasound, both thinking that afterwards we would then be free to go about our day. Jen was having some cramping which, like any sane person, we both assumed was due to the White Castle. We were moved to another room to monitor the cramping and as more and more doctors and nurses came through, it became apparent that we would not be free to go about our day.

Jen’s plan to have a scheduled c-section, allowing her to have her hair and make-up done and to generally not smell like little square hamburgers, was quickly dashed as we were informed at 11 a.m. that she would be going in to have the baby at 12. If you are going to have a baby and you can’t quite remember all of the things you need to get ready around the house, a good way to jog your memory is to be told that the baby is coming in an hour.

In one of the few moments Jen and I had to ourselves before being wheeled upstairs, she confided in me that she was terrified because she was passing gas every time she had a contraction. I asked her how far apart the farts were coming, at which point Jen probably had some second thoughts about bringing me along.

With Matthew, Jen had labored for two nights before he was born, and we had even been evacuated from the room due to a tornado, but this was a tornado of a different kind. Amid the frenzy, we called our families and I called work to let them know that not only would I not be making it in that afternoon but that they would not see me again for two weeks.

Jen was wonderful, and hardly missed a beat as she was poked and prodded and even had the epidural knocked out of her back as they moved her onto the operating table. For those first few minutes, the Dad’s job is just to stay out of the way and to not look over the curtain. (Never look over the curtain.) It is almost like being in slow motion while everyone else is moving at double speed, but everything slows down when you first lay eyes on your beautiful baby.

A girl. A beautiful baby girl.

Visions of tea parties, frilly clothes and me punching boys in the face flashed before my eyes. I could almost hear the whispers of the women at Target who would say “Did her Dad even try to comb her hair before he brought her out?”

I’m not sure what to expect on this journey, but I am excited find out. Maybe I will finally figure out something about girls, or at least figure out that I’ll never figure them out.

But right now, all I know is that Kate is coming in to a family that loves her very much, and is lucky to have a big brother who thinks that “Baby Tate” is the bees knees….at least until she starts touching his stuff.

kate and dad

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A ma’am or a sir? A him or a her?

Like a lot of expectant parents these days,  Jen and I have decided not to find out the sex of our baby since it is one of the last surprises that you can have.  And unlike waiting to see if your car passes inspection, it is a good surprise, since most people will be happy with either gender outcome.  Even if the baby is going to cost a lot more than new brakes.

But while Jen believes in the concept of being surprised, she could not be more pre-occupied with determining the sex of the baby.  Are you carrying the baby low or high?  What is the fetal heart rate?  Every woman we run into turns into a Native American shaman with their own ancient theory on how to unlock the puzzle.  If your elbows itched during a full moon, it must be a boy.  Craving small curd cottage cheese?  Definitely a girl.  (You don’t even want to know about large curd.)

Not finding out the sex also leads to a lot of complaints from people who have no stake in the result but view our decision as personal affront to them. One of the biggest complaints that people seem to have with not finding out the sex of the baby is how can you possibly decorate their room without knowing if it is a boy or a girl.  After telling someone that we were painting the room light green, they told me that the baby would “hate it” if it’s a boy.  First of all, it’s a baby.  If they can’t even hold their head up, I doubt that they have formed a strong opinion on interior design.  Secondly, if we bring the baby home and they are somehow able to utter the phrase “I was hoping for more of a sea-foam green,” I will gladly repaint.

After months of being convinced that she was carrying a girl, Jen has recently changed her mind.  Upon viewing the last ultrasound, she let me know that the baby had my large head , short Tyrannosaurus arms, and blocky Fred Flintstone feet. Signs that could only mean that the baby was a miniature me.  I’m sure there was a compliment in there somewhere.  I’m still looking.

The King of the Dinosaurs never had to suffer the indignity of shopping for a sport coat.

 For me, I am on the fence on whether it is a boy or a girl.  Since both offer their own unique issues, all I can generally think about is what I will face a little further down the line. 

Am I prepared to attend countless dance recitals or bring a little girl into the Men’s room at a Taco Bell?  I have been to some that scared me and that were definitely not suitable for a little girl wearing a pink shirt with a unicorn on it. 

I guess I will finally find out what those plastic trays with the Koala on them are all about.

Obviously, as a former boy myself, I would seem to have the most experience in that area.  But I feel that I am severely lacking in what boys see as the Big Three Categories of Dad Knowledge.

  1. Knowing what kind of wood a piece of furniture is made from.
  2. Knowing who is the Heavyweight Champion of the World.
  3. Knowing what is wrong with a car by hearing people impersonate the noise that it was making.

I don’t know the answers to these questions, so I guess I will just have to make up some standard answers and stick with them.

  1. Oak
  2. Evander Holyfield?
  3. Probably the alternator

At least when it comes to the respective pre-puberty “Big Talks,” I know that Jen will have the girl side covered.  Since my ill-informed explanation would most likely lead to my daughter being featured on a reality show.  And not one of the “good” ones where people dance or hunt alligators.

I will probably only be slightly better on the boy’s side, as everything I learned at that age came from either listening to Jimmy Grace on the grade school playground or watching the movie “Hot Resort” multiple times on HBO.  Both sources turned out to be wildly inaccurate.

I know it is a cliché, but I will be overjoyed with a boy or a girl as long as they are healthy.  And I guess I will just have to figure out the answers to those other questions along the way.  But until that time, I will be sure to carry plenty of Purel and maybe check Jimmy Grace’s availability in 2023.

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Daddy’s home!

Me, my brother and my Dad on what I hope is Halloween 1974.

As Father’s Day approaches, my thoughts turn to the man who has done, and continues to do,  the most to shape who I am today.  A man who, over these last 36 years, has made me laugh, taught me my values and occasionally driven me nuts.  A true original.  My Dad. 

My Dad isn’t like a lot of the other father’s I knew growing up.  Unlike some friend’s dads who seemed to consider their kid’s lives as an afterthought, my Dad always took an interest in what my siblings and I  were doing.  He knew our friends,  he was our biggest fan in whatever we chose to do and was always very willing to give the gift of his time. 

From the day I was born until I was in my mid-20’s, my Dad was a police officer.  It wasn’t uncommon for him to be called away in the middle of the night or to find out that the guy who said “Hi” to him at Burger King was someone who he had sent to the penitentiary for burglary.  My Dad took a great deal of pride in his work.  He loved it and I think he did it because he truly wanted to help people.  (Although the guy at Burger King may have had a different opinion.) 

My Dad is a very kind man but, as an ex-cop, he can also be a little intimidating.  He once avoided potential road rage when the belligerent driver of another car followed us into the parking lot of a Putt-Putt, only to apologize and drive away when he saw my Dad get out of the car.  My brother and I have decided that if we ever had to take on my Dad, we would have to surprise him, and at least one of us would have to be wielding a pillow case full of door knobs. 

While my Dad sometimes refers to me as the wheelbarrow, in that I only work when pushed, he has a work ethic that won’t quit.  In all his years as a policeman, I can only recall him calling in sick once.  A day on which he passed a kidney stone that, judging from the sounds I heard from the next room, was roughly the size of an avocado.  

Although his sense of humor has gotten goofier and goofier over the years, my Dad is a very funny man.  Full of stories and jokes, he is the center of most every party that he attends.   My Mom often says that friends make sure that he is invited to their parties and then let her know that she can come too.  While we may roll our eyes at the same old jokes, when he has a fresh audience….watch out. 

My Dad is like a human waterboard.  He can get anyone to talk.  If you meet him, be prepared for a barrage of questions the likes of which you have never seen.   Questions that run the gamut from “What do you do for a living?” to my family’s favorite, “Did you get any surprises for Christmas?”  (Which was asked of someone in May)  People tell him things within the first 20 minutes of meeting him that they have probably never told anyone in their life.  If you put my Dad in a room with Marcel Marceau, he would walk out with a vacation invitation.  People don’t open up to him because of some Dale Carnegie tactic or self-help book trick, it is because my Dad is truly interested in what they have to say.  My Dad makes people feel special because he listens.   

He treats everyone he meets like a friend and is the least self-conscious person I know.  I am fairly confident that he hasn’t purchased a single item of clothing for himself since he got out of the Navy, and will wear the same promotional giveaway t-shirt for years until my Mom mysteriously loses it in the wash.  He once cut the grass in a “Me So Horny” t-shirt that someone gave him as a joke for his 50th birthday and greeted some high school friends of my sister that had come to pick her up.  That t-shirt was never seen again. 

My Dad grew up with parents that he could never count on, and at some point he decided that he would be the type of parent that you can always count on.  I can call on him any time day or night and I know that he will be there for me. His word is gold.  If he tells you that he is going to do something, it will get done.  Unless it is an ill-conceived Father/Son project to revive a junkyard Camaro which came and went on the same tow truck, and spent the two years in between as wheeled storage unit in the garage.   My Dad’s self-taught automotive skills and my brother’s and my proficiency at holding flashlights and handing over screwdrivers just wasn’t enough to bring it back to life.  In all fairness, I would have probably just ended up sideswiping a Wendy’s drive thru anyway. 

As an adult, I can now look back and really appreciate all of the sacrifices that my Mom and Dad made for our family.  In addition to being a cop, my Dad worked a never-ending array of part-time jobs to make sure that my siblings and I could go to private school and to always be able to go somewhere on vacation.  There may not have been 4-Star accommodations, and my sister may have had to tell theme parks that she was 11 until she was well past voting age, but I have been all over this great land.  You have not truly witnessed the majesty of the Rocky Mountains until you have seen it from the back window of a beige Datsun 210 puttering up the side of Pike’s Peak. 

My brother says that if my Dad ever became famous, I could get rich impersonating him. At the very least I could be doing two shows a night with Tony Orlando in Branson.  What started as a trick that I sometimes used to startle my brother when he wasn’t looking or to generally annoy my sister (but unconvincingly sold to my Dad as a loving tribute) has, over the last several years, turned into an involuntary action.  I sound more and more like my Dad every day.  But as I have recently gotten married, and look to start a family of my own, I only hope that I can continue to do the best impression of my Dad that is possible. 

Happy Father’s Day Dad.

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