Category Archives: Musings on daddyhood
Daddy Isn’t Friendly Right Now, Sweetie…
Yesterday was tax day. I’m self-employed. I always owe money. The kind of amounts that really hurt. Therefore, it’s not in my best interests to file until the last minute, and so yesterday was the day (along with a good chunk of Sunday afternoon and evening to sort through receipts and such) to do the taxes.
This is, as you might expect, a stressful few-day-long period of the year for me.
Several times yesterday, my little girl had been advised not to come into my office (she’s off school this week) unless she really needed something that only I could help with. And yet, repeatedly, she decided to come in with random stuff to distract me.
OK, she’s 7-and-a-half years old. I get that she doesn’t get it.
But then she comes in at one point, and I’m tuning out her presence thinking she was just coming in to use my electric pencil sharpener or grab a piece of cardboard for some craft project.
She blares a really loud and grating sound from a homemade musical instrument.
While I’m at the tail end of adding up a large pile of receipts.
To my credit, I simply extended my palm in her direction and said, firmly and neutrally, “That’s not a good idea right now.”
Later, I showed her the pile of receipts and asked her whether she thought it would be good to make me lose my place and have to start over from scratch again.
She got it.
More importantly, though, I didn’t lose it when she came in and almost ruined my day with bad music from a questionable crafting project. I’m glad for that, because I would have hated for her to have seen me go into this mode with my office and its furnishings:
Mr. Answer Machine
I’m not going to say my daughter doesn’t listen to me. Far from it.
In fact, it’s almost assured that if we’re running errands that require a drive of more than a few minutes and we’re the only two people in the car, she will start up a topic of discussion that will require me to answer a myriad of questions and cover a range of topics that I would never have anticipated, prior to her arrival in the world, that a 2nd-grader would need to hear about. This will usually result in me having a scratchy throat and being lightheaded from talking more than breathing.
However, at home or during short trips, chances are better than not that she will fail to listen to what I have to say on a subject and press me on topics of which I am ignorant.
For example, on any given day driving her to school (which takes less than 10 minutes and often no more than five), I can bet good money she will ask me a question. I will answer her, and while I am still in the middle of answering her, she will either try to answer the question herself (wrongly) or ask a whole new question. This will then trigger me asking her to let me finish and the cycle will somehow manage to repeat two or three times in that short span of time.
So, times like those, apparently I’m not a useful resource or I’m the village idiot.
But today, as the iPad is charging, meaning that she had to take a break from watching Netflix, she migrates to the TV in the parental bedroom and, after several minutes, comes to ask me what channel ABC Family is on.
This despite the fact she knows I don’t watch kids channels and, in fact, almost never watch broadcast/cable television at all.
So, if I know about it and it’s something I should be expected to know about, like why eating a live scorpion might be a bad idea or why the entire world shouldn’t be made of food products…I’m a know-nothing in her eyes.
If, however, she needs to know every cable channel and its corresponding network when I only watch Netflix and DVDs…or she needs to know how many children there are in the world…or how to build a functional robot with weapons and cleaning attachments…well, then, apparently I’m the Encyclopedia Deacontannica.
The Most Dangerous Catch
Oh, yes, you might think a great white shark…or a crazed man-eating lion…or a dragon who’s high on massive amounts of bootleg kerosene…you’d think those are the most dangerous catches.
My little goddess daughter has been commenting lately on how she used to sleep next to the wife or me, and how wouldn’t it be a great idea to go back to that. Or better yet, I should sleep on the floor next to her bed with my fingertip touching the tip of her nose all night long. Oh, and daddy, can you pick up my more-than-50-pound adorable self even though your neck is a mass of knots right now?
Yes, the most dangerous catch is the child who wants to destroy your body for their own amusement.
Gaze upon that being below. The most dangerous catch, five weeks after we brought her home without being in residence in a womb.
Who knew, looking at her then, the schemes she was hatching.
Good thing for her she’s cute, mostly sweet, engaging and I need a child to look out for me when I’m old. Because otherwise, I might have to toss that dangerous catch back.
Deacon Blue Version 45.0
On Sunday, I turned 45. But it was Palm Sunday, and my 7-year-old goddess wanted to go to church to honor the son of God rather than letting me have a heretical sleep-in day, so 45 didn’t seem so old after all. Jesus is what…pushing 2,046 years old now?…so I won’t complain about being halfway through my 40s.
A time for minor self-reflection anyway, though. I’ve known my 21-year-old son for what is now approaching 18 years, and later this year I’ll clock in a “sweet 16” years of marriage to his mom. By the end of July, I will have been a biological father for eight years (well, with diaper changing duties, at least; I guess I should count those nine-ish months in the womb as well and make it 8.75 years of bio-fatherhood by July).
I don’t know if I’ve been the best father and husband, but I like to hope I’m at least in the top 80th or 90th percentile (70th? Please don’t say 50th or 60th…). No one’s complained overly much about my performance in either role (well, not daily, anyway), so I’m going to assume I’m doing all right. Good thing, too, because I’m getting too old to change much.
But anyway, it made my birthday to get this card from my little goddess-girl:
When I open the googly-eyed cover, what does the card read inside?
“…from your smart-ass kid!”
It seems my daughter found the card before my wife realized she was rooting around the more grown-folk cards. But, but that time, it was too late. They both realized I’d get a big chuckle out of it (I guess my goddess-girl is starting to “get” me), and so my wife relented in letting our daughter pick it out for me. Besides, she’s heard a lot worse than “ass” come out of my mouth…it’s a family tradition; you should have heard some of the words and colorful phrases my cool-as-hell-and-still-miss-her-a-lot mom popped off with when I was a kid).
I mean, my daughter was practically crawling out of her skin for me to open the card the night before my birthday because, as she put it, “I really love to hear your laugh, Daddy.” But I made her wait until the morning for her to get that payoff.
Now, I’d be remiss to leave out my wife’s contribution. She got me a fancy 3-D textured card with faux parchment pages inside instead of just the usual cardboard:
Inside that card, aside from the normal romantic/sweet pre-printed sentiments, my wife wrote a little note. But we’ll leave that between her and I…oh, it wasn’t anything salacious, you pervs (God love ya for being that way, though), but still, it’s that from-the-heart stuff, and I don’t want to go ruining my wife’s hard-earned tough-but-fair, bacon-eating-but-also-yoga-practicing reputation.
In short, glad to have another year on the planet to be a husband, as I don’t know what I’d do with myself without my wife. Glad to have another year under my belt as a dad; even though the goddess can drive me up a frakin’ wall sometimes, I find it hard to imagine life without her and already dread the day she leaves our home. Overjoyed to see my son find success in college and in his music and elsewhere. And, frankly, glad to be starting another year of life to fling prose at folks like you, in yet another blog (but please, someone knock me out if I try to start yet another one next year without killing off an existing blog).
So, it’s Deacon Blue version 45.0. I doubt version 45.1 next month will look much different, nor will v46.0 in another twelve, but let’s hope I do learn a few new and valuable things along the way.
Oh, and as an addendum, this from my little girl…
What makes this special isn’t necessarily the minimalist, semi-abstract painting style (I mean, her painting can be pretty cool but her drawing is where it’s really at right now) but rather the sentiment behind it. The petite goddess went to bed very late on Saturday night (after 10) and, as is typical (even though we didn’t outright say it this time but dammit she knows better), she’s not supposed to get up early when she goes to bed late.
Despite this, it turns out she got up at around 7 a.m. to start watching Netflix on the iPad. However, when I got out of bed at eight to put the percolator on so that my wife would have coffee available well before 9 o’clock rolled around, my little girl had temporarily relocated from her room upstairs to her painting nook downstairs. And she told me, as I came downstairs, “Don’t look, Daddy, I’m painting something for your birthday.”
Later, when I was up and about for real, this is what I was allowed to finally look at. So, given her loving vibe of wanting to spend some of her prized weekend screen-time to paint me something really early in the day, I’ll forgive that whole “getting up way before she should have” thing.
Remembering the Bachelor Days
It’s been more than 17 years since my wife and I started dating; more than 15 since we tied the knot. And it’s days like today (“today” being March 13, though this won’t post until well after that) that make me think back to simpler times.
It’s not that I don’t want to be married. It’s not that I don’t love my wife. It’s not that I resent having kids to take care of. It’s not that I want my “freedom” back. It’s not that I dream of dating other women. It’s not that I want all the money I make to myself. It’s not that I want out. It’s not that I regret getting married. Or having kids. It’s not that I’d even change my decisions and go back in time to alter them (much) even if I could…
…it’s just that some days, like today—when I answered my child with honesty (on the way to driving her to school, while the wife was still at home gearing up for the day) about a question and in so doing made my wife feel left out, betrayed and cheated—I remember how much simpler it was when I mostly only had to think about myself.
When I was single and lived alone or with a roommate, I didn’t have to fret about meal times or other daily things and whether they interfered with someone else’s desires, needs or schedule. I didn’t need to worry most night about whether I snore or not. If I decided to go out, no sitters needed to be scheduled or spouse consulted. If I was in a bad mood, no one else had to be affected by it. And so on and so forth.
In getting married, a whole new wonderful world opened up, and I’m glad to be a husband (99% of the time). From the emotional to the sexual and the intellectual to the practical, I’ve gained much and offered much in return. I’m a better man for it.
But let me tell you, if you aren’t already married, it’s so much more complicated than you can ever prepare yourself for. Being partially responsible for another person and to be tied together with them in ways that affect every day and impact every part of your life can be a tricky and sometimes overwhelming thing.
But even that isn’t necessarily so hard.
Where it gets really hard, and matters to this blog and this post is when there are kids.
Again, I don’t regret or resent my family. I love my 21-year-old son and I love my 7-year-old daughter. I treasure them. But with every addition to the family, things get more complicated.
Like today’s failure, when I answered a question that seemed to need answering and couldn’t deflect it successfully and pissed off the wife when I got home and told her about it. Whether or not I was stupid and whether or not my wife was justified in her anger could be debated endlessly, because there is no right answer to either. But what it brought home to me was how damned complicated things get when you’re not only not single anymore…but you’re not just a couple anymore, either.
It has hit home to me now (in a way that wasn’t possible with my son, who spent most of his childhood in the home of his biological dad, my wife’s first husband) with my daughter that I am going to be faced with choices in which I will honor her or my wife and in so doing, piss off and disappoint the other in a terrible way that will also wound me deeply and make me feel like a complete failure. Or, better yet, I will try to honor one and actually end up letting both of them down.
The longer the years go on, and the more complicated things get and God help me when those hormones start kicking in at puberty…well, I am going to face more of these situations, I think. And they’ll get trickier. And the potential costs of a bad choice will get bigger. And my chances of not pissing off one (or both) of my ladies will get slimmer and slimmer.
Once upon a time, it was mostly me I had to worry about.
Then, happily ever after, I had someone to care about, care for and be cared by.
Now there’s more than just two of us, and that “happily ever after,” which was already more complicated than I ever expected, even being realistic about life, is “once upon a time” again. The problem is that after that intro to a fairy tale, something terrible almost always happens.
I only hope I’m strong enough to keep getting through these situations.
And adept enough to fix the wounds I inflict when I screw up.
Reluctant to Work at Success
The petite goddess rules over our home (or tries to, anyway…both the wife and I come from stubborn blue/pink collar stock), but for all her divine majesty, she doesn’t like to rule over her success. Or, rather, she doesn’t want to work at it too hard. There are things she has thrown herself into as of late, such as her drawing, which is marvel to watch develop, but often she doesn’t like to work at things she cannot master pretty much right away, like the whole shoe-tying thing.
This is just one of many reasons we don’t home-school her, at least not yet. Needing the basics of math and language to be firmly planted, we have made sure she gets it in a structured environment with (theoretically) well-trained overseers…I mean, er…teachers. With her level of stubbornness when confronted with obstacles, combined with my stubbornness that you need to keep trying…well, someone would have been carried out of here horizontally by now (me, as a result of an aneurism) and someone else would end up unable to read, write or calculate (her).
The wife and I are great at fine-tuning things that she gets from school, skill-wise, so that she ends up above her grade level (in terms of verbal/language skills, at least, and context when it comes to history stuff) but we’d make crappy teachers of fundamental concepts and elementary skills.
When the little goddess is faced with the failure to master something within minutes, this is how things have traditionally gone:
Oooooooh! I can’t do it!
Yes, you can. You’ve made a good start. Just try…
I can’t! I can’t do it!
This is too hard! I’ll never get it!
Let me show…
I’ll NEVER BE ABLE TO DO IT!
Hey, I did it! (Sometimes happens same-day, but really, probably days or weeks later)
See? I told you that if you just practiced and calmed down and had some patience you’d…
I’m an expert at this!
For the record, found the image here.
Also for the record, in searching for “girl at work” images, I found (more or less safe for work, I think) this image: Bring Your Slave Gladiator Girl to Work Day