Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Overprotective Dad...

Since my whole life the fall, I've been having issues. I've become a hoverer, casting a shadow of safety over my son as I try to cushion or catch any fall that may or may not be in his path. But I'm only making things worse. My constant looming restricts his movement and things usually end with him throwing a fit when I scoop him up and haul him inside to the wonderful confines of his padded room. 
Of course I'm kidding, there's no padded room. Although Daddy may be checking in to one soon.
I can’t help it. Trust me, I’d love to not be this way. And I completely understand that I cannot protect my son from every fall and scrape. It' s part of the process, the bumps and bruises along the way.  Got it.
Yet I hover.
And my issues aren’t just outdoors. For instance, the other day I saw him wobbling over towards the kitchen table, which is rectangular, which means it has corners.  Enough with the geometry lessons, the point is that I hate corners.
I freaked out, bounding towards him with the delicacy of a blitzing linebacker.  I went to protect his head—the cringe inducing soft spot in particular—when I accidently bumped him with my fingers.  He plopped down, not crying, but looking at me as if to say, What the hell man?
Sorry dude.
I'm trying to let go, remembering I was chewing on rust chips at his age. But still, I keep waiting for the next fall…handing him over to my wife and hunching over like an umpire. Watch the step.  Okay, okay, watch the stick, don’t let him have that, okay there, alright watch him. You’re not watching!
Luckily I was able to duck the chair that came my way.
Over the weekend, we visited my niece to meet her brand new baby.  And no sooner than we entered, I honed in on the glass coffee table and entertainment system, both eyebrow level with my son. I held him close while pretending to have a conversation, nodding through my blurred vision, dry mouth, and tingling limbs, the warning sirens in my head piercing my thoughts. 
In case I haven't been clear, my wife has had enough of this little routine. It was funny at first, me being the overprotective Dad, but like all mental health caregivers will tell you, she needs a break.
So this week, with great reluctance I’ve released him from my grip, letting him walk around freely, belly out and legs wide, barefoot over broken glass, crawling through the splintered wood with rusted nails. I am forcing myself to back off some/a little/barely and let the kid practice walking.  Yesterday he got going a little too fast for my liking and I actually uttered the words. “No running.” 
Do you remember the day when you first realized that you were a grown up? It was kind of weird...
So as much as it kills me, I'm not hovering. I’m watching. I’m close. I’m ready to jump if needed. Just say the word and I'll dive right in.  But for now I'm hanging back, just a bit. Just minding my own--FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WATCH OUT FOR THAT LEAF!!! 
Mr. Cool, that's me.
I want him to be self sufficient. So far so good, when he does fall he gets up and swats away my attempts to help.  But at the same time I don’t want to have the neglected kid. Hmm,  I think we’re safe there.  And lastly, I don’t want to have the kid with the weird dad. 
But I think we’re too late for that….

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Health Nut...

I was in my thirties the first time I ate foods like hummus or feta cheese, at least on purpose. Throughout my twenties, my food experiences were brief, processed endeavors that were shoved hand to mouth after being bagged, heated, or made from concentrate.  Cultured I was not. To me, olive oil was that indecisive skinny chick who liked sailors.
I spent my bachelor days saving bacon grease in a jar for the next go round, and it wasn’t until I was 32 that I at my first vegetarian taco. Coincidently, this was around when I met my wife. By the time I knew something was amiss, I was also eating vegetarian chili and even lasagna without blinking an eye.  Well played, sneaky girlfriend who became sneaky wife, well played.
My son however likes nothing more than a good bowl of potato nokie and spinach, preferably with a dash of garlic. Yes he’s had his fill of Olive oil, and by the time he sees a Popeye cartoon, he’ll wonder what in the world of bean burgers is spinach doing in a can?
His food beginnings couldn’t be more different from my own. I was born in the seventies. When we ate pork chops served in a used ashtray with a side of asbestos. Snacks included staples such as Swiss Cake Rolls (I could proudly stuff one half completely in my mouth by the time I was four), Twinkies, Jiffy popcorn, Nutty Buddies. My cheese was yellow, in its natural powdered form, waiting to be mixed in with the accompanying noodles in the box. The rest of my food pyramid was built on a solid foundation of tv dinners, corn syrup cocktails, and Cracker Jacks. If I ate an apple, it’d better be wrapped in caramel. Fruits came in flavors, like lemon lime, grape, candy apple, blue raspberry, cherry cola...I could go on.
Looking back, I’m amazed that I’m not stuck in a bed because I can’t fit out of my house or that I have any teeth. Perhaps they're glued to my gums by the sweet adhesive of Sugar Daddies. I mean, we had candy cigarettes after all. My early childhood memories are like Willie Wonka meets Monday Night Football.  Sports and junk food, like a filmstrip skipping around through a grainy orange hue with and Reo Speedwagon soundtrack.
For my son though, this isn’t the case.  Not on Mom’s watch. Even the kid’s pizza has been ruined, with chopped up broccoli lurking underneath sheets of bubbly cheese.  And he gobbles it right up, so I shouldn’t have been surprised last night when he wolfed down the Eggplant Parmesan without so much as a grimace. I watched in awe, wondering if in fact we’re even related. I mean, I’m the guy who wrote this. Meanwhile he’s shoveling in wheat noodles like they're a Mug-O-Lunch.
And can you imagine this poor kid at his first sleepover? Looking around at the spread of Papa John’s pizzas and breadsticks, brownies, maybe toss in one of those cookie pizzas, (this is my fantasy so I’ll set the table here). My poor son, he’ll search for the roasted pepper garlic. pita chips, the avocado spread. Anything green.  Meanwhile his throat burning from all the soda. 
Or maybe he’ll become a super human. That’s it! Maybe I was just some junk food away from going to the NBA.  It all makes sense now. Several pallets loads Fruity Pebbles and 456 gallons of Kool-Aid must have caught up with me and ruined it. Yes, for sure. So for my son, it’s Wheaties and Whole Wheat. I think my wife is on to something here.
Eat up little guy, eat up…


Sunday, March 16, 2014


We get lots of hand me downs. From clothing to toys, books, and even bottles, we’ve had all sorts of things dropped off at our house. This is a good thing, and I'm not complaining. Although I do draw the line at "gently used" diapers. 

Like Macklemore said, I'll wear your grandpa's clothes.  Through our son's first year we've had the good fortune to buy only a handful of outfits and one pair of boots. Very expensive boots, as the money saved in clothes is counteracted by my wife's love of all things Pottery Barn. But I'm de-stressing, uh digressing here. Some of these hand me downs are practically new, and nice. I almost feel obligated to tell people that his name brand sneakers and shirts are second hand. We're not that couple that will be buying our son any Nike sneakers anytime soon.

So last weekend when our neighbors across the street offered up the swing set that’s been sitting unused in their backyard, I readily accepted. I’d made the mistake of putting Simon’s little blue swing in the tree in the front yard, which meant that every time we went to put him in the car he’d point and yell and bounce like a monkey.  I'd even taken to shielding the swing from his view to speed things along.  You do what you gotta do...

Anyway, the swing is a welcomed addition to our backyard. We made plans for the four of us to haul it across the street, which when discussed on a Friday night over a round of beers, sounded like a piece of cake. 

When Sunday rolled around and I stumbled upon the massive, wooden set, I lifted one side and knew immediately we were going to need reinforcements. That or a forklift. For a while, we all just kind of stood and looked at it, wondering how this was going to work.  I was ready to pack it in when our neighbor’s husband grabbed the tools and gloves. 

A few screws loosened and we broke it down, Carrying the top part first, I held back tears as the splinters thrust into my palm. I don't need no stinking gloves.  I fought as the frame swayed in my Nancy Boy grasp.  But I trudged onward, like I was on a religious mission, carrying a wooden crucifix across the country.  Kind of a stretch, I only had to go around to my back yard and my wife helped me out with my end.

We made it to my backyard and then went back to retrieved the base, where the sliding board connects. After some tinkering and reassembling, I had myself a swing set. It needs a little sanding and stain, but it’s solid and it works. Much better than those tetanus shot aluminum sets we had in the seventies. 

Once the set was reassembled and in position, we got Simon in his seat and swung away.
Now I look out the kitchen window and smile. If a swing set doesn’t make me feel like a dad, nothing will.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Flash Fiction Challenge...

Here's my entry for the Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Range. The rules are simple: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a character from any perspective who has to part with a prize possession.

Mine was easy, because it's true...

Any other day a ride to the dump would have made my week. The mountains of treasures, stacked far and wide over the rolling hills. Sure, the smell could get thick, nearly visible during those muggy days of summer, but today my nose was too stuffy to smell anything. I wiped my face with the back of my hand, still unable to look back at my old friend, sitting on garbage bags in the bed of the truck. Dad put a gentle hand on my shoulder, his eyes soft.

“Son, I’ll get you another big wheel, this one’s kaput.”

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Fall Guy...

Well, it happened. The thing I feared more than anything in the world.  We were outside yesterday, enjoying the warm weather and the clear skies. Simon waddled around and the dogs played in the grass, just like a commercial.  And just like an advertisement, for about 30 seconds, everything was perfect.

He stood clumsily, smiling as the sun hit his face. The breeze picked up his hair and I smiled at my wife in slow motion.  And this is where our little commercial ended, right about the time he stumbled and wobbled to the left and then to the right and then straight down, planting his face in the driveway. Not real hard, but then again the driveway’s not real cushiony.

I picked him up and he did that delayed crying thing, you know, when they open their little mouth but no sound comes out.  But he'd scratched his nose pretty good and pretty soon the pain caught up with the surprise of the fall and he found the volume button. So many things rushed through my mind.  But I actually remained calm.

The blood followed. and it look like he was in round three of a losing proposition. I let slip with an Oh God.  But then I remembered to stay calm.

We got him inside and I cursed the shoes, the wind, my own negligence.  Shaking my head, I feared for his/my future. Flashes of bb guns, busted knees, a hammer to the teeth, a fish hook to my foot, Hey watch this! sledding moments, biking moments, firecracker moments, slices, abrasions, punctures, Molotov cocktails, and so many other accidents from my own childhood circled my mind until I was dizzy.  A quick prayer, God? Please let this boy have some sense. And balance, that too, but mostly sense.
But back to his spill. We cleaned him up and then it was snuggle time.  He snuggled with Mom, thumb placed firmly in mouth and eyes avoiding me because I was closest to him when he bit it. I’m not ready for the face plant stage yet, but it’s here. And it really is the worst part about parenting.

basketball baby

With the day off from work already, I took him to the Vet. Not for the falling thing but because his ears looked infected. I know, not the greatest few days for the little dude. I got my wife to write everything down because I wouldn't remember.  Walter Payton's rushing yards in 1987? Yeah I got it, but I'm not so great with remembering what to tell the pediatrician. Not that I don't love my son just because I don't remember what night he woke up crying, it's more that I'm like Rain Man when it comes to NFL stats in the eighties.
Anyway, I felt like the biggest dead beat parent walking my kid in there all red faced and crusty, like he’d tripped on my crack pipe and crashed into my beer bottles while I was watching pro wrestling.  I felt like I was wearing a court ordered wooden Bad Parent sign.  In other news my imagination wanders if left untethered.  Moving on..
Lucky for me I know the doctor. We play basketball together and he knows I don’t like pro wrestling.  So after a quick wait, we hustled off to the back to get him looked at. Lucky for Simon there were no shots, but I never bought it when my wife explained the way his little hands shake in there. No fun. But the doc was good to us. We were in and out quicker than you can say amoxicillin. He looked him over and told me everything was fine, just a little ear infection. right now he's in his room sleeping it off, and when he gets up I'm giving him chocolate ice cream. 

Because Mom's not here and Dad thinks he's earned it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How Can We Better Assist You?

Hey buddy, what's wrong?  Is something bothering you? Please, let Daddy know so he can help you feel better. Or shriek, that works too..

Look, I get it. You’re unhappy about something, is it your living conditions? Is your humidifier not set to your liking? What about the toys, are there too many? I know it can be hard to choose which one to play with. What about the book choices?  Pandora station. High chair position? Pampers or Huggies?  Some real tough sledding here. Wait, it’s those awful Pottery Barn curtains isn’t it?  Be careful, your mother likes them. Besides, I'm still woozy from donating all that plasma...

sleeping baby So what else?  As the lower half of your personal staff, I’m on call and dedicated to you and your happiness. We aim to please, and I want to get this right, yet sometimes we may come on too strong. Like in the mornings, when we bust in and start celebrating and showering you with too much praise for sleeping.  But it's such an incredible feat. Sleeping.

Perhaps it’s the way we show affection, we get carried away at times. Do we kiss on your cheeks too eagerly? After all, I know about your sensitive skin...Aha! I know what it is. We’re wiping your butt too hard as we literally pamper you, that’s it, isn’t it? No? Son, please, try and tell me so that we can remedy whatever ails you.

Let’s move on to breakfast. Hmm, is it the way your bananas are diced? We can try small wedges from here on out, okay? What else, is Mommy spoon feeding your yogurt too fast? Not fast enough? I’ll have a talk with her.

What about getting dressed, that’s not much fun is it? The way mom zips up your jacket while Daddy rams your feet into your shoes. Is your wardrobe team not meeting your needs? It’s hard to find good people these days, we’ll straighten things out for you.

Okay, this is good, I’m happy that you’re voicing your concerns.  Let's take our time and get this right. How's the nose wiping? I agree, it would be much easier to use your sleeve. But Mom insists on doing if for you. And dinner has been a little bumpy lately. Well of course you should be allowed to hand off the yucky stuff to the dogs, in a perfect world anyhow. I know you like cheese and bread, but your personal chef insists on those green things as well. I’ll see what I can do, okay?

Bath time seems to be good, no problems there. You’re like a fish flailing around in the tub, my little Nemo. So that takes us to bedtime. Our bed? No your bed is much better, trust me. Besides, the way you throw your head around like a runaway bowling ball, Dad may not have any teeth left. But I’ll check on you every ten minutes, okay?

So let’s see. You’re fed, clothed, bathed, and entertained. Not bad for a 1 year old. Not bad at all. And between you and me, I would enjoy it Son, because when you're older and cry at these really  ridiculous things, we're going to laugh.

Count on it...

Monday, March 3, 2014


Thinking back to when I was really little, I remember marveling at my dad’s strength. His sturdy forearms, inconceivably thick and solid, unmoving as I swung from them like a jungle gym. I remember his dark hair in my hands, like reigns when I sat on his shoulders, amazed at the great view from such staggering heights. Or even slamming into his chest after a running start, when we played football in the living room, (my stepmother just loved that game).

At night, he told the best stories in his low, deep voice while performing animated impressions with questionable accents. I‘d sit wide eyed and amazed as he weaved tales ranging from wars to football, and his own childhood. He’d get me tucked in, his face scratchy and his smell familiar. Saying goodnight, he’d close my door I’d hear the sounds of the house, the rush of bathwater or the swishing of the dishwasher, and most importantly the murmur of his voice in the other room. I’d fall asleep knowing that everything was intact and running on schedule.

And that's what hit me the other day when my son burrowed his nose into my neck. I’m Dad now. The voice of safety and strength. Our home is the place that runs on time and on schedule.  It’s my turn to be the doer, the weaver of stories. My shoulders are the mountain now. The cycle continues.

I’m not my dad or my grandfather. But I'll take their lessons and strive to give my son what they've passed down. Their lives are worth striving for. My grandfather voluntarily went into prisons and prayed with the inmates. My dad has hosted countless telethons for MDA and raised money for all sorts of causes and groups. Me? I amassed countless house hold records on Tecmo Bowl and Super Mario Brothers, I came in dead last in a Girl Scout cookie eating contests. (Lucky for me, there are no losers in cookie eating contests).

My credentials don’t quite measure up. But my son doesn’t care. To him, I’m dad, and my hand will be that hand on his back when he learns how to ride a bike. I’m the magician and it’s time to create the magic. Because that’s what my childhood was, magic.