Friday, August 28, 2015

That Time I Played Big Daddy Kane At First Presbyterian Church...

I’ve mentioned before how my dad was a radio deejay in the eighties. So growing up, I never had to buy music, just pick through the freebies. I was usually first to get new music, sometimes months before it ever hit the airwaves. 

Another benefit was tagging along with dad for his gigs. On the weekends, I'd help him set up and sometimes join him as he spun the tunes at wedding receptions, reunions, middle school dances, and a little bit of everything else.

On one particular Saturday I joined Dad for a little youth group dance at a church over in the really nice part of town. We pulled in the parking lot, Dad's big old radio van screaming for attention as we drove around to the basement of First Presbyterian church, just down the road from the country club.

I knew the drill well, and as Dad hauled out the equipment I lugged in the tapes, cd’s, and the big old crates full of records.  Even entering my teenage years I still looked up to my dad, and I always liked being his trusty sidekick. 

We got all set up and things got under way. This was the late eighties, so the big names—U2, Whitney Houston, INXS—were going strong. The kids were around my age and doing what all kids do at dances—drinking soda and avoiding the dance floor until that first brave soul ventured into no man's land. Usually a group of girls would wade out, then the boys would follow and do something stupid. As a seasoned roadie, I’d seen it all before.

I found my seat behind Dad as things got humming along, and once the dancing got going, he cued up a cd, then turned to me to take over for a spell. He’d only recently let me man the controls for a song or two so that he could step away for a smoke or to hit the bathroom. I nodded earnestly, ready to step in. Taylor Dayne was blaring and he motioned to the other cd player to let me know the next song was ready to go.

I took my place at the controls, peeking over the knobs and buttons and feeling all big-time behind the ones and twos. DJ Pete was in the building! I checked what Dad had on deck and frowned. Something lame like Tiffany or Richard Marx. Not on my watch. A quick look over my shoulder. 

I knew what that party needed.

At thirteen, I was really into rap music. Okay, from eight until about right now I’ve really been into rap music. And in 1988 (or today for that matter), there was no better rapper than Big Daddy Kane.

Taylor Dayne was wrapping up. Kids were hopping around, laughing and giggling and having a grand old youth group time. With a push of the button I slipped in a worn cassette tape and grinned. 

Now, if you’ve never heard a Taylor Dayne song blend into Big Daddy Kane, well, then I suppose you just haven’t lived. Tell it To My Heart screeched to a halt as I hit play, slid the cross-fader to the right, then cranked up the volume.  R-A-W ripped through the speakers like a fire alarm.

Keep in mind that this was nearly thirty years ago, and rap music wasn't nearly as mainstream as it is today. And most rap back then was pretty lyrical, so Kane was saying a lot. I nodded along, as he tore through the track, feeling the bass rumbling my seat. Now we’ve got ourselves a party, I thought. While I’m not from the streets or anything, I’m certainly not from the country club either, and Big Daddy Kane was what was in every Walkman and boom box from the bus stop to the basketball court at the park, so I was just playing what people wanted to hear.

But when I looked up I saw a wall of blank faces. No dancing. Everyone stood there, arms crossed, gawking at me like Marty Mcfly after he went all Eddie Van Halen on the guitar. Meanwhile Big Daddy Kane was still going hard in the church basement.

Dad rushed in and righted the ship. He tossed in something tame. I don’t remember, Bryan Adams maybe. Demoted, I ripped off my headphones in defeat and skulked back to the shadows. Eventually things got back on track. Kids danced, parents breathed, the giggling resumed. Dad turned back to me and shook his head and laughed.

My bad.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sick Day

It happened again. Just like last year. My wife goes back to school and my kid heads back to child care. Where he caught a cold. During the first week. Again.

I came to the rescue, entering his little classroom during “free time” (basically when kids are free to run amuck). My mission was no cakewalk. I stepped over and around the knee-high critters, dodging germs and fighting my way through a whirl of little bodies.  Then I found my kid, eyes closed and pitiful, snuggled up in a bean bag chair with his thumb stuck in his mouth.

I touched his knee. He brightened up when he saw me. I scooped him up and he latched on to my neck and nodded to the teachers. Poor guy. On the way out he nuzzled his warm head into my neck. “I missed you Daddy.”

Some Motrin and snuggle time and little dude seemed to be coming out of his spell. We lounged the rest of the day, vegging out and eating cereal while watching Curious George on the couch. Mom came home that evening and I puffed out my chest with a sniff. That’s right, I’ve got things under control.

By the next morning things were good again. He was chipper and alive and looked to be as good as new. He had to stay out so I’d already called in work, so I took advantage, mapping out a day for us to enjoy.

We’d hit the children’s museum, maybe catch a ball game or et out. We could sing Twist and Shout in a parade! Yeah, so the day I had in mind may have been similar to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. But still, the morning was beautiful and we all the time to enjoy it. Although my perfect day and reality were bound for a collision.

 Because I pictured the day like this….

Instead it was more like this...

I had a feeling things were going awry when my car wouldn’t start. I’d let him play in it during the morning and killed the battery. No problem. My neighbor bailed us out with a jump so we were on our way, off for some fun. We set off into the morning warmth, ready for anything. But only an hour into our adventure he looked up at me and said that he was ready to go home. 

No ball games. No parades. No trying to reset the mileage on Dad's Ferrari. Sure buddy.

So we went home. And whatever bug he’d caught had a good hold on his temperament. He through a fit. No, he became possessed by germ demons. He was miserable. Inconsolable. He kicked the dogs and slapped at me. None of this was in my plans.

Nothing was according to plan. But itwasn’t about me. It was about a little boy with a cold who needed me.  He was tired. So I tried to get him down for a nap. And tried…

Nothing worked. In an instant he flipped from jolly old boy to scare-a-priest-with-my-demon-screams raging. This was supposed to be nap time. A reprieve from duty. This day was turning out to be work. I rocked and rolled. I read him books. I hugged him as he went ape sh$3, wiping his nose and clawing at the pillow. Oh boy.

Finally I got him in his room and down for his name. For maybe twenty minutes. Then came the screams.  I offered him a snack. We took it easy for a while. I gave him medicine. He got his second wind. 

We did a few activities in the basement. We painted a planter I'd built. We tinkered, then we waited for Mom to come home. And waited. He grew impatient. I got flustered.

I love my son. He’s the greatest. But on days like that he was so much work. I believe Mr. T put it best.  Parenting is hard damn work. Wasn't him? Well someone said it...

But there are rewards.

I didn’t have that big day I’d planned, but looking back there were so manly little moments. Like when I helped him out of the car, and with his grubby little hand in mine he said, “I’m having a fun day, Daddy.”

He didn't need adventure, just a shoulder to snot on. And there were also several great moments, even with my ears still ringing from those heavy-metal screams.  My heart is still warm from that little I love you Daddy I got while we snuggled on the couch. Hey, I'm a good snuggler, who knew?

He's feeling better now. But I think I caught whatever he had. Just like last year...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Gender Bender

I recently read in the news how Target's new gender-neutral sections is causing an uproar. Kids across our country are doomed because they won't know what toys to choose. Adults won't know what toys to buy. Boys will get bras. Girls will get jockstraps. The world as we know it is coming to an unlabeled end.

Like most people I know, I find the whole thing to be kind of funny.

When I was two or three my older sister wanted a little sister but instead had me--a dude. So she dressed me up and named me Debbie. Or Gail. I don’t remember. But I sipped tea and played house and pretty much did as she asked. Maybe that’s why I’m so sensitive and understanding. A perfect man, really. Later I returned the favor by dressing up my little sister in karate outfits adorned with hulking plastic bowie knives or as the mission dictated, a sub-machine gun.

Everyone lived.
Gender neutral kitchen set

These days, My two-and-a-half-year-old boy likes to “cook”. He helps out in the kitchen with the dishes or rinsing off the grapes. Over the summer our neighbor brought over her kitchen set, something that would have been in what was formerly the “Girls” section. It has a stove, and oven, a sink and a refrigerator. Here’s a picture of it--->

It even has plastic fruits and veggies with velcro insides so they can be sliced with a plastic knife. But then, take a look at what I found on the counter.

My son likes both the kitchen and the chainsaw. (He uses it to slice the avocados). Am I shocked? No. Actually I think he's a genius for that chainsaw avocado thing. Besides, I’m told that I used to raid my sisters My Little Pony village with my GI Joes, so I guess this gender bending of the toys runs in the family.

Like when my wife was painting her toenails and my son decided that he wanted to paint his toenails as well. So she did, and now we have a chainsaw-toting, veggie slicing, glittery-toenail toddler running around the house.

And all is well.

If there’s a point to this it's that it doesn’t matter. Kids should be able to play and play freely. There are enough rules in the world already. Relax and let them have fun. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Life Now

The other night I found myself involved in a fierce freestyle battle, taking on challenger after challenger and working my way through the ranks with searing metaphors and complicated rhymes. Familiar faces turned up in the crowd. Old friends. From a lifetime ago. The atmosphere was dark and smoky, and in a room full of roughnecks, it seemed I was coming out on top. I looked to my next challenger…someone tapped my shoulder.

“Daddy. Hey daddy. Daddy.”

I opened my eyes and saw that cute little face. His eyes intent. Reality called. It was 7:03 on Sunday morning.

Yes, it was a dream. But the kid in the bed. He was real.

We recently took the front cover of his crib off as he’d discovered that he can climb out. Now, we hear the pitter patter of footsteps in the wee hours of the night. And our little critter climbs up and inserts himself between his mom and me.

The day to day battles of toddler-dom are upon us. At tunes I have to remind myself to be a good parent.  Because yes, I’ll admit it, sometimes I’m selfish. Like when I want to run into Home Depot and grab something. Just in and out.

But there is no running anymore. The trip involves strapping in my kid, carrying him into the store, spending a half hour to an hour (seriously) while he plays on the mowers. Then I have to navigate what I’m searching for with either holding him or explaining that yes, we can go ride the mowers again. After that I have to get him back in the car and strap him in again.

Sure I could leave him with Mom and go get it done faster. But I work all week, so I try to get the most out of my weekends.

On the other hand it’s fun taking him with me. Sure he might lose his sh!% every now and then, but otherwise he’s a great little helper and those mowers, I hop on one too and we might as well be at the park. So I guess it’s all what you make of it.

He’s a two and a half. He throws fits. This is part of the deal. We still have fun. At home I push him around on his tractor, chuckling at the things he says and wondering where he comes up with this stuff.

We walk, we swing, we ride. He might pull, kick, scream, laugh, cry, sulk, brood, smile, sing, cheer, and then give me a wet sloppy kiss on the mouth. Then we get up and do it all again.

It’s exhausting. It’s wonderful. It’s life as I know it.