So This is Fatherhood


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The Age of Innocence

There are times during this entire fatherhood journey where I can simply take a breath, reflect and experience the world through the lens of my three year old’s eyes.

The moments are sometimes few as we all inevitably fall into the regular rat race of life – trying to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves to try and ensure the livelihood of our families, our homes and, especially the futures of our children. I am as guilty of this as anyone, if not more so.

And even though I spent the majority of my Sunday working around the house – general homeowner things that tend to need attention – it’s small moments that my daughter experienced this week when I just want to hug her, kiss the top of her head and be still in the world during with her and let everything else pass by.

236c3e9e97890d266b108013f108be27Every morning that I drive her to daycare, we usually cover three topics. It’s easy since the drive is no more than five minutes.

1) What are you going to do at school today?

I’m going to listen to my teachers.

Note: listening is not one of my daughter’s best attributes.

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There’s a big difference between sleepovers in tents at the library and sleeping in tents that you call “home” in urban areas.

2) How are you going to play with your friends?

Nice and gentle, she says as she softly rubs her own face.

Note: sometimes my child channels her inner Ronda Rousey.

3) How are you going to act?

Like a leader.

3a) And what does that mean?

To do the right thing.

Note: This one is still a work in progress. We’re trying to get her to think this way although the overall concept probably escapes her grasp. She’s getting there, but it’s something I want to institute now.

It was during our morning drive routine when she didn’t immediately answer one of these typical queries. She saw a man walking on the sidewalk.

He was homeless. A stereotypical vagrant of a homeless person you may expect to be cast in a movie if they needed what we all think a homeless person should look like. Terribly unkempt hair, ratty beard, holes in his filthy clothes. Someone who had taken several wrong turns in life, but in one way or another was still gutting it out.

My daughter saw him, and his yellow backpack with a foam roller on it and her focus on our questions went askew.

Daddy, that man is going to the library for a sleepover.

I did a double take and then lobbed back a simple Oh, yeah? at her, struck by the fact that my three-year-old has yet to tell the difference of a homeless person and a person going to a sleepover. She saw the backpack, had just finished watching her morning PBS shows and somehow concluded that this person was sleeping over at the library.

How we view the world is obviously jaded and probably more negative than it should be based on our own experiences and the influences we have: stories, news reports, experiences of others and so on.

Yet, my daughter just saw a human being. A man walking with a backpack and assumed the best. He was simply going to the library, to learn and read, and meet his friends, and then sleep there.

For a moment I wished she was right. And in that moment I wanted to crawl into that space with her and believe it too.

 


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Cinco de Blah

For whatever reason I was in a funk today. All day long. I hated it. I hate not being myself.

I’m sure some of it has to do with the fact that I have been averaging five or six hours of sleep a night for the last 15 months, and really, would love to get at least eight solid one night and wake up after the sun has risen.

Seems like more of a pipe dream, though.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

What actually snapped me out of whatever was causing this was when my wife came home and asked: “Dude, are you in a funk because it’s Cinco de Drinko and you’re not out?”

No. A thousand times no.

There are some things about being a new dad that bother me and they fall into the realm of changes I’ve had to make and priorities we’ve both had to adjust. But, it’s growing up, being part of something bigger than yourself and realizing that you’ve had the opportunity presented to you for 30-plus years to this point to do things you won’t be able to do anymore.

Like drink your face off during a Mexican holiday that 99% of the people partying have no idea what it’s about.

While I am always up for a cocktail outside of my home, participating in the “amateur hours” of big drinking holidays is something that lost its luster when I was, oh, about 24. Something about sardine-ing yourself into a bar on St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve with a lot of people who are going crazy for the sake of going crazy never appealed to me. Maybe it was all the vomit you end up encountering.

Which, in a weird way, actually sets you up for fatherhood.

MjAxMy1jY2VlMWUxODFiNzY5NTJkThe thing is, I don’t really miss going out for these debauchery-fests wrapped into a calendar date. I can partake in a debauchery-fest on a Wednesday and have just as much fun – and probably more since there would be a lack of crowd. But the point has been really solidified during this voyage of being a dad.

There’s definitely some things I miss from having far less responsibility, but there’s also some things I miss from hundreds of snapshots of my life.

My wife’s question is one that made me laugh since it re-focused things. I don’t miss events like Cinco de Mayo, but there are plenty of pre-fatherhood things I do miss. Yet, when I can see the tangible effect I have on shaping another human’s life, those things become a lot easier to miss.

Because missing something now wouldn’t really be a miss. It would be missing out.


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Dad Blogger’s in the Spotlight

It’s been difficult for me to write lately. I don’t have as much free time and it’s hard to try and fill up a blank canvas when all you want to do is turn your brain off.

(Well, Matt, some would say your brain is usually turned off. Ha ha, voice in my head … Shut up.)

It’s also been difficult lately to be involved in this Dad Blogger community I am part of (see the green button on the right hand side of the page). Right now, they are flocking to New Orleans for the Dad 2.0 Summit. In fact, it’s all anyone in this little community has been talking about for the last month. And probably for the next month.

I’m not there. I can’t justify that trip right now. For many reasons.

But what I can do is shine the spotlight on a Dad Blogger who is there right now.

Lorne Jaffe and his daughter, Sienna

Lorne Jaffe and his daughter, Sienna

His name is Lorne Jaffe and I’ve never met him. We are Facebook friends and we’ve emailed a few times and we both read each other’s sites, but we’ve never shaken hands. I don’t know his eye color and he doesn’t know my laugh. Yet, somehow, through this Dad Blogging community we’ve bonded.

Lorne writes at raisingsienna.com and I remember when I first came across one of his posts via the Dad Blogging communal we share. It struck me as being so honest, free of the snark of the normal writers, and a real look at someone trying to define his fatherhood.

You see, Lorne battles depression. And he struggles with anxiety. He sees a therapist about this, but that can only do so much. The largest light of Lorne’s life is his daughter, Sienna, and his wife, Elaine.

We bonded somehow – maybe it was because we each have a daughter – but our writing styles are completely different. I look for laughter in my honesty. Lorne looks for light in his.

There are featured speakers at this Dad 2.0 Summit. The godfathers of Dad Blogging, so to speak. One day I plan on being on that podium. Hell, I wrote for a living and when I was a Major League Baseball beat writer at 25, I was the youngest full-time guy in the Baseball Writer’s Association of America. I have awards proving I can write. I’m just trying to find my voice in a different forum.

During this conference, there are a select few – only five – dad bloggers who are asked to read from their blogs. These are the chosen few. The ones who are not there to speak about how to make money or how to craft stories or how to reach a larger audience. These are the ones who are there on their writing merit alone.

Lorne was one of the five asked to read from his blog this year. That is an honor among honors.

It also, for Lorne, is a horror among horrors. He has been stressing about it since the moment his phone rang. And, yet, this weekend, he will get up in front of a packed room and do something that very few in history have done. He will open his heart and his soul to people he’s never met. It’s like blogging, but without the safety of a computer screen. When he’s done he has to look into the eyes of the people he just addressed and he has to actually see their reactions.

I wish I were there. Not for the New Orleans part of it – I did that this summer for my friend’s bachelor party – but to shake Lorne’s hand. To tell him congratulations and that he has one of the best blogs I’ve read. Ever.

Why? Because people like you and me don’t often get to go inside the head of what Lorne deals with on an everyday basis … while trying to raise a child. Yet, it’s there for all the world to read.

And while I would never purposely steer someone away from what I’m writing, I urge you to bookmark raisingsienna.com and read what Lorne writes. You’ll smile. You’ll cry. You’ll appreciate him and the love he has for his daughter. You’ll appreciate a different view of life.

And you’ll leave feeling like you know the man without having shook his hand.


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I’m Just Dying to Live

Death.

I don’t know if every new father has this continual thought in his head, or perhaps I’m just morbid and my brain runs rampant. It’s a subject I’ve often wondered about and something that I’ve long been fascinated with.

When the Internet was just taking off in the mid-1990s I recall stumbling onto Rotten.com and just staring at the photographs of dead people. And it wasn’t because I had dial-up and had to wait for another page to load. I’ve sat and pondered my own inevitable demise — how am I going to go? Like my grandfather, surrounded by family? In a headline-making news item like a mass shooting? In an everyday car accident?

death_grim_reaper_expecting_busi_1099025Then I had a baby. And death became more of a concern of mine rather than something I entertained in my head every once in awhile. I had this sudden worry about my mortality. Rather than just thinking about it and moving on to a brighter subject, like taxes for instance, my idle thoughts of dying turned horrific.

Not because of any new pictures I’ve come across (does Rotten.com still exist … hang on … yes, yes it does) or new imaginations of a possible end. These are cold sweat-inducing thoughts here.

Who is going to be a father to my daughter if I were to perish?

I had this thought for an entire flight home to Los Angeles from New Orleans back in June. The plane hit a small bump of turbulence and I immediately thought the worst. Which is bizarre because in my previous career I traveled 180 or so days a year for four years so air travel is not a concern for me.

So, I thought, this is fatherhood? The worry of leaving your family too soon?

It’s not like I set up a life insurance policy the moment we touched down at LAX. In fact, I still haven’t. But my thoughts of death still exist.

Not so much the idea of who will be a father figure to my daughter, per se. My wife is hot, so she’ll inevitably end up with a great guy (obviously, she has one now). But my thinking is more along the lines of what I’d miss in this little fatherhood situation I got myself into.

The first day of school.

Roasting marshmallows hours after teaching her how to fish.

Sleepovers.

Her first crush.

The teaching moments. From practical: how to change a tire; to hilarious: mixing Mentos with Diet Coke.

Celebrating straight A’s.

It’s these things that I’d have to watch from a different dimension. Even after I had shaken some of these thoughts weeks after landing safely, they crept into my head again.

Sunday’s sermon at church was about death and resurrection and today Jehovah’s Witnesses left a pamphlet at my door about death. So even when I am enjoying a relaxing day off with my daughter, the idea continues to run through my mind.

Everyday, to me, is a special gift — the challenges it provides and the successes you make of those 24 hours — so it’s not like I’m constantly letting my mind wander into into the morgue.

Yet, death is kind of like life now. It’s not about me anymore. It’s about how everything would affect my daughter. It’s not so much that I would be missing out on those moments (although, technically, I would since I’d be dead). It’s that those moments wouldn’t feel complete to her if I weren’t around.

Maybe I’m the only father who thinks this way. But I’m guessing I’m not.