Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Favorite

Since the day our son was born, Mom has been the favorite parent. The Chief. The Rock. The Head Honcho. The one he looks to when he's hurt or happy or tired. I'm the one he looks to for filler. Like that sitcom you watch because it starts without warning or commercial right after your favorite show.
Yep, that's me.favorite parent
But it’s cool. I’m okay with it. After all, she breast fed him for a year, so there was a special bond between mother and son and I was content to bide my time and plot wait.

Besides, there’s nothing wrong with second place. Hey, I’m on the podium and the grandparents are fighting it out for third. I'm kidding of course, except for the part about second place. I’m firmly in second. Anyway, I knew my place and was happy and willing to take whatever crumbs of affection fell my way.
But, (rub hands together and smile creepily), the scales have tilted, and things are balancing out a little sooner than expected. Like my wife said recently, I knew this day would come, I just thought it would be later.
Yes, well move aside my precious little silver medalist, our little one has taken to dear old dad more and more. Not a minute too soon if you ask me. Some might call it a draw, but I know better,especially after the newest development this week.
Our son has started doling out kisses, and many (ahem, most) are coming my way.
Now obviously we’re both happy with this new turn of events. But the other day I saw what could be described as a hint of jealousy.  It happened as I was getting smothered with kisses. I mean, my cheek was soaked with slobber and I was kind of worried about it getting chapped when. And then I saw it, my wife cutting her eyes at this father and son hallmark moment. She quickly recovered,  clearing her throat and smiling wildly. But I saw it, and the momentum had swung my way...
“Mommy wants kisses, can Mommy have kiss Simon?”
To be honest I was a little embarrassed for her. It was like watching a champion boxer well beyond his prime, taking a drubbing. It's hard to watch, and hear. Her voice was pleading and desperate,  on the verge of breaking,, and when Simon reached for me, the dethroning was complete.
She fought it, resorting to cheap gimmicks in a last ditch effort to get that kiss.  When it became clear that there had been a shift—when even the dogs had left the room because they couldn’t bear anymore, he was returned to me, and wasted no time planting a messy smooch on my cheek.
Her eyes widened. She’d gone from gourmet entrĂ©e to back freezer artifact in the time it took to say Hungry Man.  I swelled with pride, closing my eyes and grimacing like adults do in effort to tell her it was okay, not all of us can be perfect parents. 
After that Mom began campaigning hard to get back to the top. She joined us for bath time and playtime, unable to let him out of her sight and risk being bumped off the podium. She nearly broke her neck to skid down the hall after hearing him giggle.  And between you and me, her desperation wasn't very becoming. 
In all honesty I know my brief stint as go to parent is as permanent as a clean diaper. I’ll have my time, then it will be back to Mom. He’ll realize that Daddy is winging it, that he didn’t pack a treat in his pocket during a walk, or that he sometimes skimps on the butt paste. That he doesn't know when to shut his mouth or stop typing.
We each have our strengths, and pretty soon he'll notice that mine are silly hijinks and pranks. I can dance like a monkey, but Mom is much better for snuggling.  She’s good at that stuff, and besides, who am I kidding, it's too much pressure being the favorite. For us, this is a team sport.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


My kid. He has a lot of toys.  I mean a lot.  Singing toys, dancing toys, reading toys, and teaching toys. He’s got toys that whistle and toys that roll.  He's got toys that serve no purpose other than to start singing in the middle of the night and creep me out.

And every toy uses a different size battery.

Bert and Ernie
And 99% of these toys have been given us. I say us because old Bert & Ernie there are mine. That's right, mine. They sit on my dresser because they mean nothing to my kid. One day, sure, after he's put in his due and watched a few hour of Sesame Street, then he'll earn old B and E, but now? No way, they'd be chew toys in seconds.
But back to this toy windfall, Simon's older cousin has been the source of most of the hand me downs, but between friends and family and even neighbors, his collection is growing daily.  And it's not just toys, even our swing set is second hand.
Look, I'm not complaining, quite the opposite really. I’m thankful for each and every one of them. Each new toy sings a new tune and that is a much welcomed change in my household. I understand that my kid can't appreciate the Beastie Boys just yet, but there are only so many versions of Wheels On the Bus that can be stomached before I get blurred vision and dizziness.
But alas, the other day our neighbors crossed the street armed with tubs of toys as they marched towards our house. And once again, I’m not complaining.  I peeked from the blinds as they advanced over our lawn and then I looked around and wondered where all this stuff was going.  It’s taken over the living room, and his bedroom is overflowing with enough Chinese plastic to choke a landfill.  Lucky for me, my niece just had a kid, and man, do I have some stuff for him.
Because it seems that the imports are coming faster than the exports. We have a singing turtle, a singing dog, a singing dinosaur, and a singing star. I even had to tell the neighbors that we already had the barn and racetrack they were bringing over.
I felt like the bouncer at a nightclub.
Yeah, we got that, got this, and we’re all set on chickens riding a tractor. We are accepting guitar-playing Alligators and hula hooping dragons.  Okay, thanks for coming…bye.
So I usually end up accept whatever comes our way. And the world seems determined  to spoil my kid (or give him an acute case of ADHD), all I can do is open my arms and accept the windfall.  And buy some more batteries....


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Brains, Brawn, & Bashing For An Answer...

Problems.  There everywhere. The question is how to solve them. Personally, I’m less inclined to take the time or finesse, or enlist those wavy grooves inside my skull in effort to find a solution. Like my ancestors, I grunt and bang and smash and then pick up the pieces.

My wife takes a different approach. Where I look at the triangle/square/circle puzzle like a monkey, scratching my head and mashing round objects into angles, she will turn the problem over in her head and draw conclusions. Why won’t this fit through the triangle, what’s different about it? How does it feel?

Brute Force, meet the Analyzer.

My wife calls her way the problem solver, but this sells the club and stone method short. There is an able in malleable after all, and with enough effort, that circle will fit through the triangle pattern.  (I know what you're thinking: Brains and brawn, that guy's got it all).

But now we’re teaching, and as our son matures and has already proven to be highly active and busy, we wonder, which path will our little guy choose?

The answer came soon enough, when he couldn’t get his little giraffe wheelie thing (A walk behind roller) through the threshold in the doorway. He grunted and yelled, then rammed the poor Giraffe’s head into the doorjamb over and over until my wife intervened. I would have helped but I was too busy watching him go bananas.

My wife looked up at me and said “See, brute force, just like Daddy.”

It’s not so much a temper thing as an instinct. Oh that didn’t’ work, let’s try it again but harder. Maybe it’s the male default. Also, I feel (see feel?) like the thinking part is more learned over time. I’ve come a long way under my wife’s influence, I have tried to actually solve a few brain busters. Throwing a shoulder into a door should be a last ditch effort, checking to see if it’s unlocked should be the first step.

Besides, the Brute Force method isn't the best approach when dealing with antiques, fine china, bomb diffusion, glass replacement, eggs, jewelry box repair, or model building. And it's definitely frowned upon in the surgeon's lounge.  That may be a good thing...

“This damn kidney is in my way”



But sometimes, BF can be the way to go. Like when my wife can’t get the lid off of the jar, who does she call? Mr. Brute. See, the world needs a little umph once in a while to counteract all of this thinking. That door in the basement that sometimes gets stuck? Yep, I’m all over it.

So as my wife teaches our son the many benefits of thinking, I hope he’ll know when to use which tool in his bag.

Otherwise we just might have a maniac on our hands...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Wife, The Zookeeper...

I can be a little neurotic when it comes to the safety of my son. And I'll admit, that some of my thoughts and maybe even a few of my actions are irrational. A tiny fraction still perhaps tread the tightrope that marks the borders of sanity. But my intentions are good, and yet for all my efforts, my wife's actions carelessly fly in the face of safety and sense...

For instance: Sunday 

We were winding down as another weekend drew to a close. My son and I had enjoyed one of our best outings to date. With my wife needing some quiet time for school work I had taken Simon to a nearby soccer field at the middle school, one surrounded by a 10 foot chain link fence, watchtowers, and security checkpoints. Just kidding, but it was fenced. After surveying the soft, sprawling grass and the gentle hills I pluncked him down between the two goals and let him have at it.

“Go ahead, I said as he looked up at me with wide-eyed amazement. “Walk it out.”

It was such a relief. Just to watch him giggle and wobble around, even occasionally fall without having to worry about steps, concrete, tree roots, or sharp corners, or loping dogs that don’t yield for little guys who are new to being upright. I looked on with a grin, pondering the scene as a light breeze drifted over us.

I am a genius…. I thought.

Back at home—where no one mistakes me for a genius— I ran Simon’s bath, still smiling about my worry free day when I peeked out of the window into the backyard. What is that? I leaned my forehead to the glass, focusing on the opossum sniffing around near the compost pile.

I called to my wife, who ran to the window, and we gazed out at our visitor wondering how he got in the fenced in back yard, and more importantly, how he was going to get out. I promised to open the gate after bath, shivering at his long tail slithering in the grass.  

And I thought that was the end of it.

So after bath, as routine dictates, I handed my son off to my wife and then headed back to the bathroom for my turn. Once again, I peeked out again at my friend, still foraging in the backyard in the gathering dusk. He’ll find his way out eventually, I thought. But he didn’t. Stepping out of the shower I glanced out of the window to see that the freaking opossum was still there and getting comfortable. And he had company. A Deer or a raccoon, you ask? Nope, my wife, standing there pointing and waving, holding my son and laughing like a trip to the zoo.

I wiped the fog from the window, my eyes widening at the site of my wife edging closer to the crouching varmint, his red eyes narrowing like lasers on my son, his tail slashing like a whip. The moonlight glistened from his fangs. He growled and hissed and I watched helplessly as my wife inched closer towards the snarling beast. See below...

A Chillingly Accurate Depiction of The Scene

Okay, he was maybe 15 feet away and still just sort of grazing. I didn’t see any fangs and there was no hissing, or snarling. But still, not the point. I jerked the window opened to put a stop to this madness, adjusting my towel and swallowing thoughts of rabies, infection, vertical jumping abilities of opossums.

“What are you doing?”

My wife looked up smiling. “He’s cute.”

Cute, I sighed, watching my son bounce with excitement. I couldn’t let this get out of hand, the next thing you know she’ll name him Opie and he’ll be sleeping at our feet.

“If you feed him, he’ll just come back.” I blinked, shaking my head, remembering that I was talking to someone who liked to say We should get a goat! at least once a week. My words were more encouragement than a deterrent

My son squealed and pointed. I grappled with the horrid images of worst case scenarios flickering in my head. Opossums can’t jump, can they? Finally, she opened the gate, coaxed him out, and then turned for the house. I breathed a sigh of relief. Everyone survived....this time.

I’m glad our son has her to feed his imagination. Little journeys of exploration and discovery are good and I may skim past all of that on my path to safety. It's a balancing act, and have to be careful to keep the scale from tipping too far in either direction. Me with the bubble wrap and helmet, her with the critter petting in the woods.

But as much as I may loosen up over time, possum petting is probably not my foreseeable future.