May 28, 2010

Raising a woman, not a girl

I arrive at 5:15 on a Friday afternoon. A three-day weekend looms and the preschool is decidedly empty compared to most afternoons. The remaining kids are out on the playground and I head out to greet Swee’Pea and TheMonk.

Swee’Pea sees me first and races towards me. About half-way there, however, she is distracted by a boy in her class. This boy, Jack, is also a twin but I only know him as a boy who likes to wrestle his brother to the ground and likes to sing the chorus to Queen’s We Will Rock You. As Swee’Pea passes him she throws on the breaks and heads over to give him a hug. I take note of this and, possibly, give Jack my most fatherly stank-eye practiced to-date.

As we head out to the car, I ask Swee’Pea about Jack. “Do you like playing with Jack, Swee’Pea?”

“Yes,” she replies. “I’m going to marry Jack.”

I casually reach up and push my eyeballs back into their sockets before I calmly ask, “Did you say Marry, Swee’Pea?”

“Yes.” she replies. And, then, she adds the dagger to my heart. “I’m serious, Daddy. I’m going to marry him.”

I get into the drivers seat of my car as we continue the conversation. I’m curious so I inquire why she likes this Jack so much.

“I like to play with him, Daddy.” She tells me.

I say, “That’s nice, Swee’Pea. But remember, boys who play with you have to treat you nicely. They have to be nice to you all the time. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Daddy.” She dutifully replies.

And it seems she did understand. Later that evening, over dinner, I recount our conversation for Mommy’s sake. We talk about Jack and I can tell Swee’Pea is a bit embarrassed to be talking so much about this boy. But as I wind down the conversation, about to change the subject, Swee’Pea suddenly announces.

“Boys have to treat me right.”

That’s my girl.

May 17, 2010

From the mouth of Swee’Pea

Swee’Pea is wrong.

It is my job, as her knowledgeable father, to point out the occasional missteps that my daughter makes in hopes that she will be grateful for each and every opportunity to learn from her father.

“Swee’Pea, that’s not right.” I say.

“Yes it is.” She replies with a level of confidence that only a four-year-old can possess.

“No, Sweetie, it isn’t. ‘Cheating’ means ‘breaking the rules on purpose.’”

“No it doesn’t.” replies Swee’Pea while looking me in the eye, daring me to contradict her again.

“Sweetie, it does too. I’m sorry but you’re wrong on this one. I’m just trying to help you understand.” I say this in my best, “I’m being the patient and loving father” voice and I’m sure my words will have the desired impact. I study her face and wait for the wave of recognition that I am, indeed, correct to wash over her face and to admit my superior knowledge. It’s coming. I can see it beginning to take place. Her face is transforming into a…

*Sigh* *Eyeroll* “What…ever, Daddy.”

Okay, maybe that wasn’t the reaction I was expecting.

April 24, 2010

The Best Things in Fatherhood are Unplanned

When you first learn you are becoming a father, certain things run through your mind. First and foremost you think, “HOLY CRAP!” But after that, many other things run through your thoroughly frenzied mind that include playing catch with your son, waiting up late for your daughter, paying for college, and having someone to bring you cold drinks on a hot summer’s day.

But there are also some things you don’t think about. For some reasons, no one thinks of the toys you step on in the dark, kids wiping boogers on your pants, Taylor Swift or screaming for no apparent reason. Unless, of course, you’re screaming because of Taylor Swift.

But there are also things you don’t think about that end up being a total bonus to being a Dad. Never in a million years do you think of these things prior to having a kid or, even, right up to the moment they occur. Instead, every once in a while fatherhood hands you something so funny and awesome that when it happens, the only thing you can do is giggle. And,of course, take a picture.

Swee'Pea giving me the finger
Swee’Pea showing me her “owie.”

April 21, 2010

Swee’Pea Vs. Bunny Ears

She sits with her feet inches from her face. The shoes that adorn her feet are sparkly and slightly larger than they should be. The laces are long and black and rest gently in her hand as she attempts to tie her shoes. I watch as she crosses the laces and begins to tie the first beginning knot. Already, I can tell she is not crossing it right and as she struggles to make the knot, I offer my assistance.

“Do you need help, Swee’Pea?” I ask.

“NO!” she says says loudly and firmly.

This is a tone that has played itself out many times dating back when she was 18 months old. I know better than to interrupt her intensity. I do, I know better. But I just can’t help it.

Swee’Pea tries again and, once again, she misses the first knot. She is now more than a little agitated.

“Swee,Pea,” I say. “Let me help you.”

“NO! I… Can… Do… it.” she says as she begins to force the laces together as if just pushing them together will result the perfect bow.

“But, Swee’Pea…” I begin.

“I… Don’t… Need… Your… Help… DAD…DY…” She stammers out.

“But…” I say, “It… kinda looks like… you do.”

And as I finish that sentence my words fade away into nothing as her eyes look up from the task at hand to meet mine. No words are exchanged but I can tell from her look that if I say one more thing, she’s going to shove that shoe lace straight up my nose. I decide to keep quiet.

After a few more tries and a few more *sighs* and *grunts*, however, she finally masters the bow and her shoe is nicely tied.

It’s at this point, after several minutes of fury and anger, she looks up at me and gives me the most angelic smile in history.

I pity her future husband.

April 2, 2010

Apparently there ARE stupid questions

I unlock the front door after another day at work and Swee’Pea and TheMonk notice my arrival from the other room. “DAAAADDDDYYYY!!!!” they scream as they barrel towards me like out of control bowling balls. I quickly set my stuff down and get down on my knees to accept the avalanche of love I’m about to receive.

After receiving my hugs and kisses (and doling out a good amount of my own), I begin to talk to Swee’Pea and TheMonk about their day. On this day, Swee’Pea had to go to preschool on her own in the morning as TheMonk had a doctor’s appointment so he could have his stuffed-up ear looked at.

Swee’Pea tells me that TheMonk missed chapel that morning at preschool.

“He did?” I ask. “Did you like chapel?”

“Yes.” replies Swee’Pea.

“Well, what was chapel about?” I inquire.

*Sigh* “It was about Jesus, Daddy. It’s always about Jesus.”

I swear I saw her roll her eyes.

March 30, 2010

Let’s check back in 30 years

Our four-year-old daughter is dressed in her white Easter dress that has a blue sash across the waist and gold and blue flowers adorning the billowing hemline. She has dressed herself, like a big girl, even managing to put on the white tights that go on underneath the dress. She prances a little when no one is looking and I can tell she is pleased.

Mommy comes down and does her hair. She dampens the hair and adds hair gel to create a wet, loose-curl look of Swee’Pea’s locks. Swee’Pea is satisfied with her hair. She looks beautiful and is ready for her first school photo shoot.

We arrive at school and, after some shy moments (and a bribe of cake after dinner), Swee’Pea smiles for the camera. All is well.

Later that night, we call Grandmother as Swee’Pea is eager to tell her of the dress, the tights, the photos and… of course, the special treat after dinner.

As we explain to Grandmother what Swee’Pea is excitedly trying to tell her, Mommy tells Grandmother that she gave Swee’Pea curls instead of braids. Suddenly, Swee’Pea comes to the conclusion that she COULD have had braids. In her mind, this is a special kind of evil. How could Mommy deprive her of braids – and not even tell her?!

She begins to pout. And as we begin to chastise her for pouting, she erupts with one final declaration:

“I’m not gonna make MY daughter wear curls!”

February 18, 2010

Yuck Mouth A Cappella

Recently, while playing with YouTube on my iPhone, I decided to search for some School House Rock videos to play with the kids. Only, after watching a few, I realized that the twins are probably at least a couple of years away from really benefiting from some of the classics like I’m Just a Bill, Conjunction Junction or Interjection!

But then, I found an old, long forgotten favorite. It’s a Public Service Announcement from the American Broadcasting Company featuring Yuck Mouth – a disgusting dude with awful teeth singing about how his name is Yuck Mouth because he doesn’t brush his teeth. I showed this to Swee’Pea and TheMonk and while both enjoy it, Swee’Pea has taken an instant liking to it. After just a few viewings she had mastered the song. Now, when we brush our teeth, Swee’Pea likes to begin with a round of Yuck Mouth. Enjoy.

January 10, 2010

Fear Can Suck It

I hear her cry out late at night. She should be sleeping as bed time was at least three hours prior. I rush to her room, like a masculine Ms. Clavelle and as I open the door I see her tear-stained face clutching her stuffed kitty as she cries.

I quickly approach and begin to stroke her sweaty, matted hair. I ask her what’s wrong, expecting her to tell me she had a bad dream. Or maybe she has to go to the bathroom. Instead, through her sobs, she exlaims, “I don’t wanna go to school!”

And there it is.

Ever since we began talking about preschool – a real preschool and not the in-home preschool/daycare they go to now, I sensed that Swee’Pea has been scared about going. She is a worrier, that little one. She turns things over in her head and thinks about it until there’s nothing left to do but cry in the night.

I comfort her with soft caresses and I whisper, “It’s okay to be a little scared, Swee’Pea. It’s normal to feel scared about trying something new. But you know what? When you try it anyway, you feel so much better.”

A few more words of comfort and some gentle goodnight kisses is enough to send her back to sleep. And the next day we talk about how we want her to talk to Mommy and Daddy whenever she’s scared because using our words to talk about what scares us makes us feel better so we don’t cry in the middle of the night.

Swee’Pea agreed to talk to us but ever since I haven’t been able to get my own words out of my mind. When you confront things that scare you, it makes everything better. And then I think of all the fearful things that reside in the pit of my stomach that keep me from reaching my full potential. And my words suddenly felt hollow.

How can I look my daughter in the eye, encourage her to confront things that scare the bejeezus out of her, and not do the same myself? I have always promised myself that not only would I never lie to my children but I will always try to be the best role model I can be. So it has to start with me.

Since it’s fairly close to the new year, I’m going to call this a resolution. I resolve to look fear in the eyes and kick it’s ass in 2010. No longer will that nervous pit in my stomach overrule what I know needs to be done. No longer will I procrastinate because the idea of doing something makes me sweat. No longer will fear hold me back and keep me from realizing all that I can be. And no longer will I feel like a hypocrite when I look into my daughter’s eyes and tell her that trying will help the fear go away.

Fear can suck it.

December 10, 2009

A Daddy-Daughter Moment

I come home after you and your brother are in bed.  It’s been a long day filled with long meetings and I climb the stairs, thinking that both of you will be awake and I can get some goodnight kisses in before it’s too late.

I enter the room, slightly illuminated and my eyes adjust to find your brother sound asleep.  I glance over at your bed and and I see your eyes peeking out from under your Princess Blanket.  I creep over and you excitedly remove your arms from your cocoon and reach them out for a hug.  I kneel down and you wrap your little arms around my neck and squeeze harder than a 4 year old girl should be able to squeeze.  I bury my nose into your cheek and kiss your cheek as you continue to squeeze.  You finally release me and we whisper to each other sweet nothings as we give each other butterfly kisses on our nose, cheeks and ears – our own little ritual of late.

As I gaze into your eyes, my heart fills with love and I am so blessed that I get to be your Daddy.  It is at this moment that you begin to speak.  Not wanting to miss this touching moment, I lean closer, eager to hear what this precious moment means to you.  Just the two of us.  Daddy and Swee’Pea.

I lean closer and hear you whisper in my ear…

“Daddy. I’m thirsty. Can I have some water?”

November 20, 2009

Hell hath no fury like a pre-schooler scorned

It starts out with a quick, jerking up of the head – as if she’s still not sure she heard you correctly and wants to verify that you did, indeed, dare to utter words she does not agree with. This is almost instantaneously followed by a narrowing of the eyes and a wrinkling of the nose that clearly indicates displeasure and, if one did not know better, that lasers will soon shoot out of her eyes and pierce your skull, shattering your illusions of a sweet, innocent child.

If we are lucky, this is followed by a little “Humph!” noise of displeasure and a stomping off to sulk in the corner of some room looking pitiful and sullen and wanting attention that we refuse to give. But more often than not, we are NOT lucky and she screams a loud, “NO!”

As we calmly tell her that yelling is not allowed and that she will not be getting what she desires with an attitude like that, it is like we have done the unthinkable like spit on Dora or pulled on Cinderella’s hair and she quickly erupts into full-blown tantrum in .025 seconds.

The screaming is accompanied by last-ditch efforts to win us over. As if being loud and teary will suddenly be the final piece of evidence that proves to us her point of view is the better one. “I WANT A WHOLE BANANA!!!!” or “I DON’T WANNA WEAR THAT! IT’S NOT CUTE!!!” or “IF I CAN’T EAT THAT COOKIE, I WILL CUT YOU DADDY!!”

Okay, maybe not that last one. But no matter the words coming out of her mouth, she is a fireball of fury. She looks like an exorcist waiting to happen. Neighbors must be contemplating picking up the phone to call Child Protective Services somewhere around this point. I’m looking up adoption services in the Yellow Pages. Small dogs begin yapping throughout the neighborhood and our cat Nutmeg races to the safety of under the bed in the guest room for several hours after.

If she’s in rare form she begins flailing on the ground, kicking and hitting anything she can. This might include the floor, cabinets, toys, yours truly. She is out to punish and she does it with a vengeance.

It is about this time she either earns a timeout or more likely we just ignore her, not wanting to validate the tantrum. Which, of course, only pisses her off even more. After all, what’s the point of throwing a good tantrum if your parents don’t even pay attention?! (Of course, that’s the point we’re trying to drive home but our girl is stubborn. She’s not going down without a serious fight.)

The weirdest part of the whole entire tantrum, even if it last 45 minutes (her record), is that five minutes later, she’s smiling and acting like the ham she is. The puffiness around the eyes might betray her, but you’d never know the girl had just tried to bring down Western Civilization as we know it.

And it’s a good thing she can put it behind her so quickly because it usually takes me that long just to find the adoption agencies in the Yellow Pages. Often, she’ll come up to me, grin and smile and nuzzle me with her forehead – As if to say, “I just brought my A game and you didn’t budge. Well played, Daddy. Well played. Now aren’t I cute?”

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