January 30, 2013

Pride with a little bit of prejudice

GirlyGirl,

I have been able to spend a lot of one-on-one time with you the last few weeks. Between your daycare provider going on vacation, you being sick, me leaving my job, there’s been a lot of opportunity for us to bond even more. This is making me feel so incredibly good because I never did take a paternity leave with you like I did with your brother and sister. Circumstances made it difficult and I regret not taking that time. But now I have the time and it’s been an incredible experience to not only get to know you but have the opportunity to feel like I’m contributing to your development.

I have been playing with you a lot these past few weeks and it is amazing to me how quickly you absorb information. It hasn’t been all that long since we’ve begun reading nightly bedtime stories but you can now help me finish the rhymes on your favorite book, “I know a Rhino.” At first I thought it was coincidence that you were making sounds that were similar to the words but now I know that it’s deliberate. You know the rhyme and you say it with me, which is pretty damn cool.

You also know the names to the facial features as we get dressed after a bath, you lie on the changing table and point to my hair and say “hair” in your cute 19-month voice. You point to my eyes, nose, ears and teeth and repeat these as well. And then, as I blow raspberries on your freshly-washed belly, you laugh and point and say, “Belly!”

And finally, you love to sing. If you have heard a tune a few times, you will sing along to it, reciting lyrics only you know but it’s clearly in the tune of the song you’re either listening to or just heard. Today, we had a good time singing “The more we get together” as I readied you for your nap. After we had stopped singing together and I gathered you to put you in your crib, you continued your own little solo. Your smile as you sang lit up the room.

You are growing up so fast and learning words at a dizzying pace. You have an outgoing personality and a smile and laugh that is intoxicating. You give kisses and raspberries and hugs. You wave and say “bye-bye” emphatically and, if the person is really special, even blow kisses.

I love the little girl that you have become, sweet one. And I’m equally glad that I’m here to see it.

Love,
Daddy.

January 23, 2013

Unemployment – A week in review.

Day 1: I wake up on this Friday morning with the usual sense of urgency, only to realize that there is nothing usual to not having to get ready for work. I shower anyway, which seems more out of routine than necessity. GirlyGirl, who won’t be back in daycare until Monday, doesn’t seem to mind me skipping a shower now and then. I throw on some clothes, make the kids breakfast and walk Swee’Pea and TheMonk to the bus stop as I’ve done almost every day since kindergarten. None of the moms seem to notice my unshaven, unshowered appearance and I don’t know if I should be thankful or not. Maybe personal hygiene is overrated.

As GirlyGirl and I return to the house after the twins are sent packing, I sit down and contemplate what to do next. GirlyGirl, sensing my funk perhaps, heads to the pantry and returns with a bag of Doritos. She looks at me and says, “chip” – which clearly translates into, “Look, you know you can’t drink while it’s just you and me but let’s hit this bag of Doritos like it hurt you.” What the heck. We break into the bag. It’s 9:00 a.m.

The rest of the day I do laundry.

Day 2: Sporting a slight Dorito-induced hangover, I wake up with a sense of purpose and declare that the day will not get the best of me. I make the kids breakfast before taking them to spend the day with their mother. It is then that I realize that I have time to myself. This is not a good thing. Before I know it, I’m cleaning the house like CPS was on the way. Clutter is being tossed, floors are being mopped, that pile under the coffee table that’s been hiding for years meets its demise. I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop. Everywhere I turned there was something to clean. Even the cats realized what was up and disappeared before they made the list.

At some point I couldn’t remember what day it was. OH MY GOD! IT’S ONLY BEEN TWO DAYS AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS?!! My life is now clearly devoid of meaning.

Before picking up the kids, I head to the grocery store to pick up food for the week. I nearly break down in tears when I catch myself doing the unthinkable. I actually considered buying non-rBGH-free milk. OH MY GOD! WHAT HAS BECOME OF ME?! HAS MY LIFE STOOPED TO BUYING POISONED MILK FOR MY KIDS?!!! I compromise and buy organic whole milk for GirlyGirl and the poisoned milk for Swee’Pea and TheMonk. Yes, it has come to this. I have my favorite. Sue me.

I throw in a load or two of laundry.

Day 3: TheMonk wakes up with a fever. This is okay because I had talked myself into being super dad and taking everyone to the park to feed wildlife and possibly snacking on McDonald’s french fries. Instead, we hunker up at home and, hello, NFL playoffs on TV? Don’t mind if I do!

Somewhere between the first and second quarter of the Niners-Falcon’s game, I remember that the kids have a science project due this week. In fact, it is due on Tuesday and, as I learned yesterday, today is Sunday. So we break out the pennies and glass and water for a water displacement experiment and a magnet and various things metal and non-metal and get all scientific. We take photos of the experiment. By the time we are done, the Niners are on their way to the Super Bowl. Now, the kids are decorating their display boards in preparation of presenting their experiment. They finish right about the time Tom Brady is pouting while wearing a beanie on the sideline.

I do a couple of loads of laundry.

Day 4: It’s Monday but the kids are all at home because Martin Luther King Jr. decided to do all of this heroic stuff and now I must suffer for it. TheMonk is still fighting the fever so we cannot go anywhere. I spend most of the day trying desperately to keep the house looking clean. The words, “OH MY GOD! WE LIVE LIKE PIGS!” may have escaped from my mouth.

At this point, I have clarity on why I liked working so much – it keeps me sane from my kids. I decide I should probably be looking for a job and fire up the internet to propel me to employment.

The jobs are not inspiring.

I head out for a bit. Andrea helps the kids finish their science project. When I return, she informs me that the science project is not due until NEXT Tuesday. My bad.

I do a load of laundry.

Day 5: It’s Tuesday. I think. The twins are ushered off to school with a nutritious lunch made lovingly the night before. But before I can taste freedom, I make the mistake of taking GirlyGirl’s temperature. Dammit. It looks like another day with GirlyGirl. And we’re out of Doritos.

I find more things to de-clutter and clean. The downstairs bathroom gets hosed down and the exercise equipment that’s been sitting in a corner of the den for years gets moved to the garage. I move my IKEA book case that I brought back from my office into the playroom and use it for toy storage. This cleaning and organizing is like a sickness. I can’t stop.

I do another load of laundry.

Day 6: It’s Wednesday. Almost one week from when I left my job and I finally have a day to myself. Up until now, this unemployment thing has looked decidedly similar to parenting – albeit with a cleaner house.

With all of this free time I go to Starbucks in the morning, lunch with a friend at mid-day and hanging out at Panera in the afternoon.

Once I am at home I plan on applying for a job or two.

Oh, and doing a load of laundry.

January 17, 2013

Changes

I resigned from my job today. I signed a piece of paper through tear-blurred eyes that said I no longer wanted to be the Executive Director at my Y.

It was a tough moment in a series of tough moments these past six months. So many thoughts swirled through my head while my hand scribbled the words, “Effective today…” I thought of my kids and my ex-wife and how they depended on me to be there for them. I thought of all the joy my job has brought me and how much I loved what I do. I thought of how much I loved building that Y and giving the community something special. But it is time to move on.

And as I say the things I need to say to myself to keep going, things like, “when one door closes, another opens” or “the best is yet to come,” I feel better but it just barely masks the feeling that I don’t know if I’ve ever felt in my lifetime… failure.

The kids cried tonight when I told them I was leaving the Y. They cried for the camp counselors they love and what the Y has meant to them over the years. I cried too. I told them that it’s okay to be sad but that things will be okay.

And they will be. Fortunately, I have some time to figure things out. The uncertainty that lies ahead is certainly scary and daunting but I look forward to new challenges and a new opportunity to be the leader I want to be. Sometimes, a fresh start is what’s needed.

And I will hold my head high and be the role model my kids need me to be. They need to see that in challenging times, good things happen. I am determined to show them that this is true.

But it does seem I’ll have to enroll them in camp in the spring. Good thing the Y gives financial assistance.

January 4, 2013

No. Or, Yes.

“No.”

It’s your favorite response to a question. Even questions that one would normally say “Yes” to. “Do you want a cookie?” I ask. “No.” You reply.

This is my favorite part of your ever expanding vocabulary. You recognize speech patterns and identify that questions are being asked of you. You just aren’t sure how to answer them.

Although, now that I think about it, your confusion of the word “no” is probably not your fault. Like your brother and sister, your mother and I have tried hard to avoid using the word no with you. It has been our experience that this will greatly diminish your use of the word when you get into the terrible two stage. Perhaps, through our infrequent use of the word, you have become confused by its true meaning.

In fact, it seems that you really think that No means Yes. Or maybe you think that No is a word that has a good chance at being correct for any question that is asked of you. Either way, it’s pretty darn cute.

I also love that you have different ways of saying the word. Sometimes, it comes out in a very short, staccato-sounding “No!” – as if you are certain that is the right way to answer the question. Other times you say it in a sing-song “No-oooo” with the last part of the word dropping an octave or two that almost signals resignation or sadness at responding to the question. And other times still, you say it while shaking your head and looking at me saying, “Nooo” without any variation of tone at all.

Yes, you know the word. But, no, you don’t really know the word.

Do you?

January 2, 2013

Miss Independent

You only look back when I call your name.

And even then, as I call out to you to stay close, you look back at me and laugh… and then run faster in the other direction, your little 18-month-legs churning furiously beneath you.

It has become a game to you. Run away from Daddy. And while I chase you down, whether it be on a sidewalk, a field at the park or in our own house, you laugh deliriously at the thought of running away from Daddy.

I always scoop you up and plant kisses on your soft, chubby cheeks and admonish you for running away from me. But deep down, I like it. I like that you have a sense of independence that gives you the confidence to wander freely on your own. You explore and relish the opportunity to break out on your own and I can’t help but hope that this trait continues into your adulthood.

Your brother and sister were never like this. I have many memories of one or both clinging tightly to my legs in new situations or even recurring situations like daycare or camp while crying and begging me not to leave them. But not you.

No, you seem to embrace your independence. You seem to embrace the chance to strike out on your own. And I hope you know that while I will always be here to cheer you on as you explore your freedom that I’ll always be ready to pull you back to safety and give you kisses and playfully admonish you for running away.

But secretly loving it.

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December 31, 2012

I resolve…

One year ago, 2012 had yet to reveal what it was to become. 2012 was to be a year of struggles, both professionally and personally. It was also to be a year of personal exploration and the realization that my life is better when I’m surrounded by those who love me and cherish me for who I am.

If you had asked me for my resolutions last year, I’m sure it was along the lines of eating better, exercising more. This year, however – a year later – I am looking at 2013 with a sense of optimism that I haven’t had in a long time. Even with the unfinished business of a divorce and helping my kids adjust to a different life, I am still optimistic that this year will open the door to the rest of my life and I am looking forward to seeing what is behind that door.

I have already so much to be thankful for. I have beautiful, healthy children who I can love and hold and cherish. And I have a wonderful new relationship that I hope continues to blossom and build on the promise that has presented itself so far. I had forgotten how good it feels to be loved.

So with 2012 in the rear-view mirror, I look to 2013 and my resolutions have more to do with internal happiness than anything else…

I resolve to laugh more and stress less.

I resolve to accept the past, honor the present and embrace the future.

I resolve to listen to my heart as well as my mind.

I resolve to be passionate about things that matter to me.

I resolve to do things that scare me.

I resolve to be the person I want to be.

2013, let’s do this.

December 19, 2012

Pretty

I am settling GirlyGirl into her car seat after we have seen Swee’Pea and TheMonk off at the bus stop. It is cold and my fingers struggle with the buckle and GirlyGirl begins to become restless until she notices herself in the mirror that is positioned in front of her that allows me to see her from the driver’s seat.

She points at her reflection and says, simply, “Pretty.”

I smile at her as we make eye contact in the mirror. “Yes.” I reply. “You are very, pretty.”

Of course, she’s heard this from me before. I feel it is my duty as a father to my daughters to impart a feeling of self-worth. Yes, this should be focused on intrinsic characteristics like kindness and self-esteem but I feel it’s equally important for my daughters to feel pretty. Too many women in our society grow up thinking they are ugly. I have personally witnessed women struggle through eating disorders or body image problems because they don’t feel they are pretty or don’t measure up to what society dictates beauty to be.

I may be naive to think that I can counter all the media and outside influences my daughters will face as they grow up into women but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to do my best to make sure my daughters feel beautiful – both inside and out.

Pretty.

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November 3, 2012

Just like his dad

He is seven going on eighteen. The speed in which he is growing up continues to amaze me. The little hands that used to seem so fragile against my own are now big enough to throw a baseball and hit Ctrl+Alt+Delete at the same time.

And as he continues to grow, both physically and emotionally, I keep trying to remind myself that I am not only watching a child grow, I’m helping a boy grow into a man. I am keenly aware that how I act, what I say, how I say it, will have a lasting effect on who TheMonk becomes.

To this end, I have to say that it’s not easy. I have to practice patience when patience is in low supply. I have to listen when I’d rather tell. I have to give time, even when time is short.

I also need to remember that I am his father. I have to discipline when I’d rather look the other way. I have to say no when I’d really like to say yes. I have to teach that there are consequences to poor choices – even when I could easily shield him from the consequences.

And finally, I have to show him what it’s like to live freely. To love openly. To take risks when the reward can be great. To be honest, respectful, and caring. In short, I have show him the kind of man I want to be.

Only time will tell if I’m successful. But time is short and this is the one time where patience can’t be had. I hope that one day, he’ll look back on his childhood and recognize that his dad sure loved him. And that maybe being like his dad isn’t such a bad thing.

September 30, 2012

Life Changes

Every now and again my ring finger feels naked. I absentmindedly reach for my wedding band with my thumb, as I’ve done probably thousands of times before, and realize that it’s no longer there. That symbol of eternity, as the priest described it over 12 years ago, now sits in my overnight bag, tucked unceremoniously under the bathroom sink.

What led to this life change is complicated and, yet, simple. While I’m not inclined to air my laundry in such a public forum, I am at peace with the decision. For too long I gave and, in my mind, received little. Or, at least, not enough. I’m not sure if blame is to be cast – it just is. And while I am mindful that the person I will no longer be married to will always, and hopefully, be in my life as we continue to parent our beautiful children, I am also mindful that my life can be mine again.

Again, this is not to place blame. Blame implies anger and resentment and that’s something that I don’t have. Not anymore. Sometimes I feel a melancholy sadness that mostly percolates to the surface when a childhood milestone is missed as the family we once knew – but I am also filled with hope for the future and a sense of peace that the decision is the right one.

And as I look at the faces of my children, I hope they will one day understand that this decision was made, in part, because I want something better for them. I want them to learn what a healthy, strong relationship looks like and I feared they wouldn’t learn that with the status quo. Perhaps they can see what two loving parents can do for their children – even if it’s done in two separate households.

As for me, my life feels at ease for the first time in a long time. The irony is that there are many reasons to feel differently but I feel, for the first time in a long time, a sense of optimism that I thought had died long ago. I know who I want to be. I know what I want for myself. I know that I can take the lessons I learned from my marriage and apply it to my next relationship. I am a work in progress but the final chapter hasn’t been written. In fact, this middle chapter might be the defining time of my life – as a father, lover, friend.

Here’s to the next journey. One where the symbol of eternity won’t be a ring of precious metal but a resolve to give and receive and love and be loved.

September 12, 2012

Daddy’s Girl

Hello my littlest one.

You are almost 15 months old and I cannot believe how the time has flown. In the past few months you have gone from baby to a toddler and the changes are almost too numerous to mention. But I’ll try.

You have five teeth now and four of those five appeared within a week of each other. I was certain you were going to end up looking like a baby great white shark with several rows of teeth at the rate you were popping them out. Lucky for you and for your dentist, your tooth sprouting has slowed considerably as of late.

What hasn’t slowed down is you. You have gone from the fastest crawler in the West to a daring but not-quite-graceful walker. You stagger around like a drunken sailor with a smile to match. If you go particularly far, you recognize this achievement by plopping down on the ground so that you can give yourself a hand. You clap in a way that only a 14 month old can. Your joy is contagious and, pretty soon, your brother, your sister and your dad will join in the applause.

When you’re not clapping you’re waving bye-bye. While I’m not certain, the pleasure you get from waving bye-bye to everyone you meet – including complete strangers – is that you’re saying to them “So long, suckas!” I could be wrong, but your devious smile suggests otherwise.

You are beginning to talk now. You get pleasure when we realize you are saying words. To be fair, you aren’t the most articulate person in the world so sometimes it’s hard to understand what you are saying. For example, you say “Abba” a lot. I’m fairly certain you’re not asking for me to play Dancing Queen so maybe someday you can enlighten me on what that means. What I do understand is “Dada, Mama, Nana (banana), kitteh (kitty), ball, and your sister’s name. I’m sure your brother would love it if you could say his name but he seems to be accepting the fact that you know everyone else’s name but his.

At daycare you are learning to sit in a circle, share with others (not your strong point. I’m just saying), and do art projects. You really seem to love coloring, painting and tasting the occasional crayon. You have really blossomed with your personality since you started daycare a couple of months ago. You are getting comfortable around strangers and you smile and laugh all of the time.

Your favorite games are peek-a-boo and “where’s GirlyGirl’s belly button?” Believe it or not, it’s always in the same place.

So, my littlest one. You are growing and have blossomed into such a joy and wonderful little girl. I may be biased, but you’re such a joy to be around.

I think I’ll keep you.

Love,
Daddy.

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