So This is Fatherhood


Leave a comment

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.

IMG_4716

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.

 


1 Comment

Life With a Threenager

Until I saw some pictures tonight, there’s certainly a few things about the first year of my child’s life that I had forgotten.

Like the fact that she had no hair until well after her first birthday. Or the types of pacifiers she had. Or a set of clothes. Or how small she was.

And that was less than three years ago.

Screen-Shot-2015-09-15-at-20.41.24So it only stands to reason that when she hits her high school years I am going to forget how she is already hormonal at three years old.

Yes. It’s true. I am dealing with a threenager.

It’s not so much the attitude. I can mostly handle that. Mainly because I know I could totally take her in a feat of strength, or throw down in an arm wrestling competition and take her out. So, if she wants attitude, I’ll defeat her with strength. Or some of my own attitude. I can out-attitude with the best of them. Problem solved.

And it’s not so much the lying. Kids are going to lie to their parents. It’s just how it goes. Quick confession: Mom, I forged your signature once to get out of detention. Pretty sure the teacher knew, but it worked.

It’s the wild mood swings and the selective listening.

That’s some ish I cannot handle.

The mood swings kill me. How can someone be so excited and pleased to feed ducks old, stale bread and then cry 30 seconds later because they want to go home? In what world is that normal?

How can we be riding bikes and cracking jokes about what’s for dinner (Daddy, do you want to eat rice and cars for dinner? How about rice and grass?) and then turn on the water works because the idea of trees and beans is not as appealing?

I was building up my preparation for uncontrollable mood swings … but 12 years from now! Why do you think I’ve been watching so many John Hughes films?!

143-120957-tantrum-1444892568

Daily occurrence. 

But, Lord. The listening. Or lack thereof. Egads. It kills me.

Half the time I wonder if my child’s ears are painted on.

I remember selectively listening my mom, or my teachers. I distinctly remember this. But I was 16 and it was a phase of “Leave me alone” which I presume all teenagers go through – or else pop culture and my own experiences just lied to me.

To have it happen at three years old is mind bending.

The worst part of it is actively looking your child in the eye, telling her something, and then having her completely ignore you.

And so many people say this is “the fun age.” It gets worse?

Imagine, in your adult life, your boss asks you to do something. You nod, agree and go your separate ways to handle business. When your boss returns you have one shoe off, there are crayons all over the floor and part of your shirt is above your head.

Sounds like Friday night to me.

But this is how it is … in a blink of an eye you go from Please put your shoes away to complete anarchy.

Holy moly.

I keep thinking that this blog space is going to be a nice reminder and some sort of gift to my daughter one day. See all the funny things you did to make daddy prematurely gray?

But I think that this one is more for me. A time capsule, so I can remember when we actually hit the teenage years that I already dealt with this once.

 


Leave a comment

Sticks and Stones and Bro’s

There was an evening recently where, for a moment, my daughter was upset.

She has bypassed the Terrible Two’s and is smack dab in the middle of the Terrible Three’s, crying when she doesn’t get her way, talking back, ignoring some of our words – in general acting like a miniature teenager. Therefore her being upset didn’t really cause a ruffle in either of her parents’ lives.

Plus, she’s stopped taking naps at daycare, so she has been overly cranky and tired in the afternoon and evenings. Which fits perfectly in our family dynamic because now all three of us have the same general feeling.

This minor meltdown and teary-eyed response, though, was different.

She was telling my wife that some girls at her school were calling her names. She’s three years old. This shouldn’t happen.

My heart immediately went into my stomach. How could toddlers insult each other? This sort of crap wasn’t supposed to be something that we dealt with as parents until she was seven or eight – at the earliest. I thought we were still in the coloring, playground, puzzle stages.

What in the world could kids be calling each other these days?

They called me “a bro” she spit out.

As ridiculous as name-calling can be, especially something as innocuous as that, I wanted to cry.

No parent wants their kid to be upset. And you feel helpless on something like this, even though it doesn’t even compare to the names she will probably be called by other girls as she gets older. In the grand scheme of things “a bro” is eons better than B or C or W or whatever other insults girls hurl at each other.

My wife handled this first foray into insults very adeptly, telling our daughter to just ask these girls very nicely not to call her that anymore. For now, that approach will work. We’ll definitely have to call an audible on that in about 10 years.

51Y-Q1Gg4BL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_When I checked in with the kiddo a few days later, apparently these girls have moved on from “a bro” to calling my kid “too serious.”

How can a three-year-old be serious? I wondered, thinking of this child who begs for me to “act silly” with her.

This episode came as I was finishing my good friend Josh Suchon’s book, “Murder in Pleasanton,” which details a 14-year-old girl’s murder in 1984. On the day she died, Tina Faelz was harassed and called names. One of the girls who harassed her was quoted in the book, 30 years after the death feeling tremendous amounts of guilt every day and making this girl’s final day of her life miserable. It was something that haunted her.

We never think of these things in the moment. I was no saint as a child and upon reflection, probably owe some kids an apology. Not to the extend Adam Sandler does with Steve Buschemi in Billy Madison, but I definitely ruffled some feathers. (Note: except you, Ashley Levine. You deserved everything that came your way. I maintain that forever.)

As I’ve gotten older and smarter and more accepting, I hope to instill this ideal in my kid – that it’s actually not that hard to be nice to people.

The way we pay our rent for taking up space on this earth is by serving others.

So whether my kid ends up being a too serious bro or develops into a goofy girly I hope that the lessons I’ve learned will find their way into her ethos and she’ll incorporate them in her life’s path.

I tell my daughter every day to be a leader. It’s a hard thing to do, to put your arm around a kid who’s being made fun of and show solidarity with the outcast, but that’s what leaders do. And I hope that if someone in my daughter’s life is being teased she will throw an arm around that child and protect them the same way I do to her.


Leave a comment

Barter Patrol

You ever been to a flea market? Bazaar? Ensenada?

It’s like the opposite of eBay. The more you feign interest, the lower the price gets.

You can still get the pair of sandals, or the watch, or the fake Luis Vuitton purse at a price the seller finds reasonable, but you think you’re getting a bargain because you were about to walk away. (Even though, deep in the back of your head, you were never really going to walk away from such a deal!)

easily-distracted

And then you’re convinced you are a great bargainer. The same way I think I’d make a good sports general manager because I can wheel and deal in fantasy sports.

Problem is, it’s all a charade. You’re not a good bargainer, you just bought a fake purse for $30 when it cost the seller about $5 to create. But, in your head, you think you snookered that crazy person who sells things off a blanket.

That’s how it’s become with my daughter. Or, at least it’s how I think it is.

She’s as stubborn as her parents (good to know the apple doesn’t fall far) so to get her to do something without simply overpowering her always turns into a game of bartering.

(Really, though, if I absolutely need her to do something I will use the overpowering tactic. I would have been the worst if I had Andre the Giant’s physical attributes … I would have just threatened to crush people’s heads.)

I don’t think she’s quite at the age where she thinks she is getting the better of me, but the whole bartering technique is alive and well in our household.

And, you know what? I’ve totally become one of those parents I swore I wouldn’t be. Growing up and seeing exhausted parents in the store just giving in to certain things – Fine you can have some candy, just stop hitting your brother for 10 seconds and you can get the jumbo size.

OK, it’s not that bad – but I probably need to keep it in check. Hence this little slice of online parenting therapy you have stumbled upon.

The thing is, my daughter is very active. Without stories of me bouncing off the walls, I might suspect she could have ADHD or some other type of thing where I would want to medicate her. But that is clearly the easy way out. She’s not a harm in what she does, she just gets easily distr …. SQUIRREL!!!

Two of his heads for one of yours. Seriously, the Jungle Cruise jokes never get old.

Two of his heads for one of yours. Seriously, the Jungle Cruise jokes never get old.

Where was I? Oh. Right.

To reinforce potty training, we offer M&M’s for every successful venture. It’s worked because she knows she gets a treat if done correctly. Or to give us some peace and quiet for 20 minutes, we’ll give in and let her watch TV on our phone or iPad. Or if she is throwing a fit for something, we’ll set a simple hurdle for her to achieve and then she gets what she wants.

It’s not like she’s begging for drugs and we’re like You’ve got to eat three bites of your vegetables first then you can take one big hit off this crackpipe. She is a good kid with a lot of energy so to help curtail it, we just try to put a checks and balance system in place.

But, oftentimes, I do feel like I’m at the end of the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland and Trader Sam is offering two of his heads for one of mine.

 


2 Comments

Curt Schilling Makes a Case for All Fathers

When I was covering baseball, I would have loved to have had a player like Curt Schilling in the clubhouses I worked. While, personally, I think he’s a little over the top and sometimes full of it, he was never afraid to speak his mind and was known as “Red Light Curt” because he always seemed to find a way to be in front of the camera. [EDIT: Please see comments that clarify this nickname. My fault. It was what all media interpreted it as.]



When he retired and I moved on from covering baseball, I tired more and more of Schilling. He seemed to stir things up just to stay in the spotlight. Right or wrong, that’s how I felt. 

However, he penned a blog today that I think speaks volumes about his character and who he is as a father. Regardless of my thoughts as a ball writer, or my thoughts on where Schilling stands on whatever issues (and trust me, you’ll never be in a gray area with him), what he wrote today as a dad was purely brilliant. 

It’s not that he is a dad to a talented daughter or that I am a dad to a talented, albeit younger, daughter, his thoughts resonate with me. And as any parent – or really, human being – reads this, they should understand that it’s more than being a father to a daughter. Or a father to a son. It’s about having respect for other people. 

I hope that in my daughter’s life I never have to deal with social media vitriol that will bring her to tears and have her question herself. But knowing that the world is constantly changing and technology is always a step ahead, I fear what I have in store for me. 

Maybe I will print this out and keep it as something to refer to in a time I go through a fathering struggle. 

Read it. Then read it again. No matter where you stand on Schilling – and as a sports fan you feel one way or the other – this will make you appreciate him as a person. And as a father. 

https://38pitches.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/the-world-we-live-in-man-has-it-changed/


Leave a comment

Mama Said Knock You Out

Watch out Ronda Rousey. My two-year-old is pretty good at connecting punches.

I'd be OK if my daughter ended up doing this for a living ... so long as she didn't have one of those hairdos.

I’d be OK if my daughter ended up doing this for a living … so long as she didn’t have one of those hairdos.

To me, this is only a very minor problem. The #LikeAGirl Super Bowl commercial was certainly something that hits home a bit as the only child I have is a daughter and, yeah, I want her to be able to out-run and out-throw and – eventually – out-drink the majority of her male counterparts.

Right now, she doesn’t hit #LikeAGirl and it seems can already out-fight the little toddlers in her playroom.

She smacks both my wife and I and she knows it’s wrong, saying she’s sorry and kissing our arm or shoulder where she had just struck us. Recently I picked her up from daycare and she told me that a boy in her class had hit her.

Carlton* hit me.

Well, that’s not OK in my mind so I find the toddler’s teacher and get the real story. Apparently my kid wanted to follow the boys around (“She doesn’t like girls, she’d rather hang out with boys” the teacher said … which is both a blessing and a curse, I suppose) and when Carlton* didn’t do something, my daughter smacked him.

So, he hit her back.

To me, that is just playground karma. An eye for an eye approach. And, until she’s older, I guess it’s fine. I don’t want to condone it, but I also take a little pride in the fact that my kid isn’t afraid to swing her ‘bows a bit.

Honestly, I don’t want my daughter to be a pugilist. But without having to teach her to defend herself, it seems like second nature in her makeup and that makes me a little happy. At two-years-old she also shows that if some guy isn’t going to listen to her, she is going to make sure he pays attention.

It’s not like we encourage her to be violent. In fact, with two dogs around the house, it’s quite the opposite. I’d rather her fall into a Zen-like state than smacking us, or throwing her stuffed toys around and laughing.

But … I do kind of like that she has the potential to be a complete badass and not take gruff from anyone.

Even though she likes having “princess hair” she’s proving she is not #LikeAGirl. And, I like that.

 

* – name changed to protect this kid


Leave a comment

A Little Mo for Movember

Like any young male, I relished any facial hair I could grow and kept some semblance of it on my chin and along my sideburns thinking that this growth helped me look older and more distinguished.

It never worked. And, in fact, it turned out that having facial hair wasn’t always the best way to go in professional settings.

Unless you’re a cop, an actor, a pirate, or James Harden, facial hair doesn’t really go with your vocation.

Less than three weeks in and I could audition for a part in Castaway 2.

Less than three weeks in and I could audition for a part in Castaway 2.

This month, however, a group of my co-workers and I are growing out our facial hair during November, now known as Movember – which has turned into a great worldwide campaign to raise awareness for men’s health.

See, both of my grandfathers died from cancer and my dad has had it twice. I know I’m going to get it someday so doing little things like this, hopefully by the time I get it, there will have been enough donations and research through efforts like this that cancer will be as simple to treat as a sore throat.

Doc, I’ve got cancer.

Take two of these and call me in the morning. 

Growing out my beard has been an interesting experiment in manliness, though, I’ve got to admit. It’s been 20 days and I look like I could have been stranded for about six months and arrived at this site by raft.

I joke that criminals do it wrong because they should grow out a beard for a few months while planning their escapades and then after a heist immediately shave. No one would be searching for a freshly shaven face – they’d be looking for a guy with a beard. Didn’t anyone watch The Fugitive?

Too bad I’ve got a conscious. I stole a pack of baseball cards when I was 10 and felt so guilty by the time I got to the car, I had taken them out of my pocket and left them in the parking lot. That seemed like the better option than throwing them away, or worse, bringing them all the way home.

Being a ginger also allows me to believe that I’m either a plaid shirt away from being a lumberjack, or a buried treasure away from recreating the life of Redbeard the pirate.

The thing is that I’ve kind of fallen into a good relationship with my beard. I put conditioner in it while showering and I run lotion through it during the day to keep it soft.

Unlike in my early days of rampant testosterone where I felt any growth added depth to a person, a beard now feels like I need a pipe and a tumbler with a single malt in it. Or that I should be brewing beer in the Pacific Northwest and acting like a hipster. I feel like I should have many leather bound books and my house should smell of rich mahogany.

My beard should have its own Twitter handle.

It will be gone in a few days, this terrific thatch of growth on the gorgeous canvas I call my face. But every time I stroke my chin like a theorist deep in thought, or ask my daughter to rub daddy’s face, or admire my well-groomed, non-homeless look for an extra moment in the mirror, it reminds me that what I’m doing is for a good cause and didn’t start the way most beards do – out of pure laziness.

If you’d like to support my efforts you can by donating here.

I mean, you don’t really want to root for cancer do you? It’s like cheering for Kim Kardashian to actually break the Internet.

 


5 Comments

Turn Down the Stereotypes

I’m a big fan of stereotypes. I think they’re funny and they lead to some easy jokes.

I’m a red-headed white guy with both Scottish and Irish heritage deep in my DNA. So that means I like to drink (true), I can’t jump (true) and I’m not fast (true).

And, yet, there is one stereotype that I really don’t like. It’s one that normally stays inside me and I try to dispel it with my actions. But again and again I either fail or there is too much momentum that it’s like trying to stop a tidal wave with a few sandbags.

It’s the long-held stereotype of fathers being absent.

There’s been a lot to change that, probably because of shows like Mad Men that remind us of a different time and era, so we think of the progress made over the last 50 years. However, that stereotype still exists deep within our belief system as humans. It’s probably not going away soon because, unfortunately, there are too many men who continue to give credence to this stereotype.

I carried my kid during a long hike earlier this year. Was it a date? No. Should I be celebrated for it? No. It was just me being a dad.

I carried my kid during a long hike earlier this year. Was it a date? No. Should I be celebrated for it? No. It was just me being a dad.

There are, though, a lot of men fighting that stereotype.

 

They’re not marching on Washington. They’re not holding rallies. They’re not asking for signatures to put something on a ballot.

They’re just being parents.

It’s not a fatherly thing or a parental thing, per se. It’s just being a logical human being and watching out for your child.

So when I see a link celebrating Dads with Daughters, I was somewhat excited to click on it. Even if it was via Buzzfeed.

Here I am, a dad with a daughter, and a very popular website is celebrating them.

Until … I clicked.

Talk about an entire page of horseshit.

This is a page with 25 pictures of men hanging out with their daughters. To even call it a “date” is disturbing. To celebrate the fact that a dad is doing something with his daughter is worse.

I don’t know … maybe they’re just doing what they’re supposed to be doing? Ya know? Like taking their kid to eat. Or to a concert. Or to play miniature golf. Things that dads – or any parent for that matter – should be doing. Spending some time with their child.

So why is it such a big deal? And why are we calling it a “date?”

Can’t we just call it “being a dad?” And do we really need to celebrate it?

What’s next – Hooray for a pet owner picking up dog poop during a walk?

This is the kind of thing that should just come with being a responsible human being.

If we want to fight stereotypes, I’d love to see a Buzzfeed page showing shitty moms. Because all moms are amazing, right? And the stereotype is that moms do all the work and dads get to goof off and get away with it? So can we find 25 photos of mothers in jail, on drugs, on the streets, not buckling their kids in the car, drowning them, locking them in rooms, malnourishing them? Would that get some web clicks?

Look, I’m not the best dad in the world. I’m entirely average. I want to go hang out with my buddies and drink beer and enjoy some time without my kid, too. Does that make me a bad person? No, it makes me human. The same way a mother needs some time to herself, too.

But, dammit, when I’m spending time with my daughter I shouldn’t be celebrated. It shouldn’t be a date. It should just be a normal thing.


2 Comments

Trusting That I’m Doing It Right

What builds trust?

Trust fall!

Trust fall!

As an adult, trust is harder to build because you have lived and experienced heartache and deceit. The past is what is preventing you from taking a step into your future.

And, yet, there is trust around us every day. We just fail to notice it.

Every time I get into my car, I trust the person driving alongside me is: licensed; insured; capable; sober; not texting; following the law; and so on.

When I go to a restaurant, I trust that: the chefs don’t give me chicken tar tare; they wash their hands; the bartender mixes the correct drink; I don’t get overcharged.

There are tons of examples of trust surrounding us everyday in this world and yet, we are skeptical.

You know who is not skeptical? Your child.

That kid trusts you more than you can imagine. What you feed her. When you bathe her. Change her. Clothe her. Walk with her. Hold her. Give her a toy. Tell her no.

Everything your child responds to – especially so young, like mine – is based on the trust she has in her parents.

That light bulb flickered on for me a few weeks ago.

All she knows is what we’ve provided for her. Whether it’s the right daycare, or the right temperature of a bottle, there is an amount of faith in a 30-pound human being that is unrealized by me.

Slowly, as she ages, that trust will erode. I’ll break it somehow and I’ll lose a piece of the trust monument I spent years building. Plus, she’ll become a teenager and not trust anyone except for some friends who will end up backstabbing her and a romantic interest who won’t have her best interests at heart. It’s sad, but true.

So in the meantime, all I can do is continue to build that trust with her.

Because when that eventual letdown happens, I want her coming to me with the problems. Trusting I can help her solve them.


Leave a comment

Seeing the Positive From the Negative

It’s been awhile since I filled this space, but it’s because I’ve had a lot on my mind.

10308882_10103156229846917_2127205360656024416_nIn my head I had been crafting this post ever since I heard the news about the tragedy in Isla Vista, the small town where I spent four years of my life while going to UC Santa Barbara.

My friends have been filling up my social media feeds and it’s been hard to ignore the hashtags, mentions and general feelings of anguish based on the random violence that left six dead and many more injured.

Rather than the effect on the community or how it might have affected those who hold that hamlet by the sea in a special place in their hearts, what I keep thinking about is: What about those families and people who now have holes in their lives?

Personally, I’ve escaped death once. My experience was life-altering because it changed how I approached things. It made me realize that you never know when your card is going to get pulled, so you should live every day to the fullest and enjoy what you have. You should be honest to people, tell them how you feel and appreciate them.

I think we’re all too guarded sometimes because it’s human nature, but we shouldn’t be. Maybe you’ll never have the chance to tell the people you appreciate that you truly do appreciate them, respect them, love them, cherish them. In your head it might sound like a risk, but wouldn’t it be nice if someone told you how much you mean to them?

It’s something we’ve all heard before. We shouldn’t need these reminders. Sometimes, though, it helps reinforce ways to make the world better.

This incident two weeks ago might have affected me differently. While I try to act on my own advice, it was always very personal driven. In national TV interviews I saw the heartache of a father who lost his son. He will never be able to hug him again, laugh with him, enjoy life with him.

So I picked up my little girl and I hugged her. I told her I loved her. Inside, I felt that while she was frustrating at times and she challenged me as a person and sometimes I wonder about this whole fatherhood thing, I don’t know what the future has for us, so I wanted to appreciate her in the moment.

I’ve lost friends and family members who have meant a lot to me. But to lose a child would be a completely different experience and in that moment I had a better understanding of what it would mean.

I’m going to continue being open and honest with those who mean a lot to me because I feel it’s a great quality to try and live your life by; but I’m also going to hug my daughter a little tighter each day, try and see the world through her eyes each day, tell her I love her as often as I can.

Every day I’m working on being a better person. Now I’m also working on being a better dad.