Friday, March 27, 2015

Morning Moments

The clock shows 6:30 but it’s midnight black outside. I only have five minutes to get out of bed if I want to stick to my schedule, which, I guess I kind of have to. I find my son sleeping in his crib. He made it through the night, a wonderful thing because my wife and I are total suckers. I recently read somewhere that Teddy Roosevelt once said that President McKinley had "no more backbone than of a chocolate eclair." Pretty much us when he wakes up crying.

But he’s snoozing, in that kid position with his little butt in the air. It goes without saying that if it were a Saturday or Sunday morning he would've been jumping up and down and shouting, “Out?” twenty minutes ago. But it’s a nondescript Tuesday, so he’s sleeping like a teenager.

“Yogurt time?” I whisper. It's like a cannon fired in the room.That’s all it takes. He snaps his head up to attention, his eyes blinking to life as he assesses the situation. It amazes me how fast a two year old can go from dead sleep to wide awake in two words flat.

I lift him from his crib. He rests his head on my shoulder. The fish tank bubbles and one of the dogs slides off the bed in our bedroom. Like I said about being a sucker.


I set him down and he scampers off, getting his little legs beneath him. We set off for the kitchen where he goes right for the fridge. Recently he has discovered that he can in fact, open it. But his morning muscles haven't fully woken up yet.

I grab his yogurt. He flinches at the light from the fridge. We take our places at the table--him with his yogurt and me with my Cheerios. I’ve come to love this time of the day. The windows are like mirrors. There's only a wink  of light through the trees as my slice of the world is sleepy and quiet. Being that I haven’t yet listened or read the news the world is still a beautiful place. Hopeful even.

The dogs wander in and make a lazy attempt to stretch before thinking better of it and curling up on the floor. My son and I go right on shoveling spoonfuls of yogurt and cereal into our faces.
He looks up at the light and laughs. I’ve put Patrick the Monkey up in chandelier.

“Patrick is silly,” he states. I nod. His hair is matted and spikey. He’s wearing little pajamas and footsy things and I cannot imagine a better way to wake up. The horizon blushes. My wife waltzes into the kitchen and gets the coffee maker groaning. The day is about to begin in earnest.

But for now, it’s all still. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Won....Wait.

I was all geared up to play in a charity basketball tournament over the weekend. Our first game was on Saturday morning and  I showed up with a bounce in my step and a hop in my shoes. I don't play basketball as much as I used to so when I get the chance, I try to make the most of it.

We won. Which was great. By the time I got home I was icing my ankle and waiting for my wife and kid to get back from the park. Ugh. By then the park sounded painful just thinking about it. While I’m not old, I’m uh, mature. Okay not mature either. And if this post seems familiar, that's because I don't learn.

But I’m in decent shape. And like I said, when I’m out there on the court, I'm all Mr. Hustle. It’s afterwards that I have a little trouble. So with our second game at three, I rolled off the couch around two and pulled on my jersey without quite so much zeal as the first time around.

We won again. Come on people, how can you lose to us? We're old. Most of us anyway. But once again age triumphed. Another victory. Great. That put us in the championship game on Sunday. Wonderful. 

Sunday morning. I staggered down the hallway, cursing Dr.Naismith, his stupid sport, and the whole month of March in general. My back hurt. My family missed me. I hunted down the ibuprofen and washed it down with coffee. Eat your Wheaties, kids.

Off to the game. We had about eight players on our team. Median age I’d put at about 40. Enter our competition. Youthful and spry, armed with headphones and aloof smirks so often found on twentysomethings. They were 15 deep, with swagger and fans and great attitudes. We had Bengay.

I'm kidding. No one had Bengay. And once we started running layups I forgot all of my AARP issues. (Seriously, my stepmom just gave me the issue with Dylan on the cover. Kind of embarrassing when company stops over). The buzzer sounded and we tipped off.

I’ll make it short. They beat us soundly. I found myself defending their best player. Dude was quick. He had me on skates out there and I was just trying to stay in front of him. Years ago I would have been all for the challenge, yapping and being an all around putz. (I don't really use the term "putz" but I thought it fit the theme here.). But instead of talking trash I made jokes about how bad my ankles were going to hurt after the game. 

Realization number one hit me like an elbow to the jaw: I’ve become that old man, the one you can’t rattle because, well, he really doesn’t give a damn.

After the game I congratulated the victors and limped out of the gym. Smiling.

The day was gorgeous. I put down the windows and stretched out my back. I was actually glad that a basketball game was over.

This is new territory for me.

It was as I was pulling into the driveway that realizations two and three dawned on me. I'm turning forty this year. Yikes. But the bigger thing that I realized was why it no longer hurts to lose. Because I hadn't lost. I've won the most important prize that one can attain.

Inside I gave my wife a sweaty kiss, remembering the day that she told me to sit down. She had news. She was pregnant. I’d just come home from playing basketball that day too. That day changed my life. 

But there was no big announcement. She was off to run errands. When my son woke up I was showered and changed and ready to hangout. He seemed happy to have me around again. I was happy not to be out playing basketball. 

We went for a walk in the woods near our house. Him with his mower and me with my creaky ankles. Our shadows lay before us. His bouncing along, looking at everything. Mine more deliberate, watching. A hand extended to his little head. That’s when yet another realization fell over me like the light breeze in my hair.

My son doesn’t care if I’m not the best on the court. He doesn’t care if I shot 3-7 from the foul line. He might've taken issue if I hadn’t showered but what really mattered to him was that my shadow was right there with his. That we were hanging out together on a gorgeous Spring day.

We stopped so he could inspect a stick, then an ant. Some moss on a rock. All the while I kept reaching out and touching the top of his head. He looked at me with that squinty smile of his.

"Daddy," he said. I smiled. We started off for the house when he stopped and turned back to me again, reaching.

"Carry me?” 

It's a face you can't deny. So I bent down, my back protesting the movement and my ankles squeaking like a rusty door hinge.

“Sure buddy.”

Best trophy I've ever held.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Mow Time!

Like most two year olds my kid really likes lawn mowers. He really, really really likes lawn mowers.

For instance, his favorite youtube video is the consumer reports lawnmower guide. If you don’t have the time or energy to click on the link, here’s the gist of it: An old guy with a clipboard weights the pros and cons of push mowers. They delve into the discharge and bagging systems, the mowing deck, the engines and what not. And he's paying attention, forcing me to drag out the mower whenever we're out back. 

Daddy mow!

I’m commanded to make a dry run over the backyard. He bends down to inspect the discharge shoot. Then he studies the pull cord and the choke. I’m fairly certain he knows more about our lawn mower than I do.

Lowe or Home Depot is like a trip to Disney Land. Over the weekend he test drove a push  mower into the ceiling fan section. Then it was off to the blowers, the weed whackers where my wife so brilliantly snagged a magazine which we then spent most of the afternoon reading. Yes, reading.

Every one of our neighbors yards have been mowed to the dirt by my son and his trusty toy mower. He especially likes the challenge of hills, although I'm really going to have to have a sitdown safety chat about letting the mower run down the hill on its own. But by then of course, when he is really ablt to mow the lawn, I'm sure his love affair with small engines will be long forgotten.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Anyone who’s ever read one of my post can tell you that I’m no expert on parenting. Not even close. I don’t claim to be better than other parents out there, nor—as my wife could attest—do I have superior judgment skills. But where I come up short I hope to make up for with my efforts.

I will always make an effort.

We’ve recently gotten a membership to a local children’s museum. And it’s there that I’ve had a chance to witness all sorts of parenting first hand. And yes I watch. I watch a lot.

Sometimes it’s funny what you see. And sometimes it’s a little sad.

People, we’re at a children’s museum, not a bar or a club or even at the mall. There is absolutely no reason to act cool and aloof, you’re kid doesn’t get it.

Guys, parks and playgrounds are a free excuse to climb, slide, jump, giggle, and have at it. Nobody cares. And besides me, I doubt anyone is looking. So go ahead and stop strutting. It must get old anyway, that I’m too cool for the world stroll. It’s exhausting just to watch.

Hey, at least he's trying...
Moms. I get it if you’re bored or frustrated. You’re probably tired of waiting on that slowpoke husband of yours. But how about pretending that you’re having an, at least okay time. Just for a bit, right?

It’s incredible how many parents bring their children to a place to have fun then look like they’re waiting to get drilled in the mouth at the dentist office. And sure maybe I caught some of these people in a bad moment. Maybe that important phone call/text just happened to be a family crisis. In that case I’m completely in the wrong. But to the rest of you, go get dirty.

Maybe I just have unrealistic expectations. My dad made some of his own really bad parenting decisions—many  But you know what, he was there, right by my side. (Well, sometimes far ahead of me and yelling back over his shoulder for me to get moving because the park ranger was chasing us for riding mini-bikes in the park). But when it came to effort, he gave it his all.

He always had time for me, whether we were in a flimsy raft in a flooded creek or lighting probably-aren’t-legal fireworks purchased from a guy in a van known only as “Roach” at the flea market. We were always together. And to me that’s more important than being perfect, in fact the mistakes are most of the fun.

And that’s what I want to give my kid. No, not fireworks, but the effort. I don’t know how many times I’ve turned my back for a second and he’s slipped. But I’m not going to lose a how-hard-are-you-trying? Contest, because I’m trying hard, and if I look like a goof in the process then so be it.