Posts Tagged ‘parent’
Morning is a game they play. It is the crossroads of grumpy and hijinks, and there are shoes to be tied, teeth to be brushed, and a number of things that really should have been done the night before. It is the kind of chaos that lends itself to immediate cursing and a lifetime of fond, sweet memories. It starts too early and ends on a dime.
Sometimes there are too many metaphors to bother.
The boys are sleeping now, between mornings and the shadow of them, and the world is quiet save the sound of frogs in the stream outside. The stream was dry just days ago and the frogs were dehydrated and forgotten like so many sea-monkeys on the cusp of greatness — covered in leaves, dust, warts and all. Now the frogs are awake and alive and they want us to know it.
We know. We know.
And the boys sleep on while the world spins constant around them. There are late night projects, glasses of whiskey, promises kept and those unfulfilled. Their breath is a bass line beneath the songs of the night and my keyboard types out like a broken-down piano. Every sound is clear and haunting, every breath a melody. The notes between are soft and silent. They linger until the moon fades, then the sounds are soon to follow.
Morning is a game they play. They will win every single time.
Illustration by Arnold Lobel
It was four hours past the the day I turned 41, and I stumbled into a dark hotel room covered in the smells of whiskey, Texas, and things best forgotten. The night had grown stale and suddenly quiet. I threw my clothes on the floor and I fell asleep immediately.
The morning found me relatively fresh and thankful for it. I was at the Dad 2.0 Summit in Austin, Texas, and I had a reputation to live up to — the drinking was only part of it.
The other part was crying in public, which is something of a running joke among those that have seen me speak on the topic of parenting. Turns out I’m a freaking sap. (Also a sap, Robert Candelino of Dove Men+Care, a sponsor and speaker that lost it on stage. I’m only bringing it up because a) it was quite touching, and b) hello? When Doves Cry). Luckily, I managed to forgo my own tears this round (barely), much to the chagrin of those that enjoy such things. Rest assured, I didn’t let them down on the drinking.
But it wasn’t all beer and bourbon.
The Dad 2.0 Summit was an amazing meeting of parent bloggers and brands — a public place for parent relations, which sounds weird now that I typed it, but I’m leaving it in. Somewhere in the distance that’s what she said.
Blogging conferences seem to appear at just the right moment. I have been in this space for a long time by most standards, and I find that my passion for it tends to wax and wane like so many moons and other things that cows jump over. It is safe to say that recent events and the lack thereof had me on the wane. There was thought of turning away.
I am as unemployed as I have ever been, leaving me embarrassed, stressed, and flirting with depression. I thought about skipping the conference. It was only due to a series of phone calls with an impassioned Doug French, one of the founders of Dad 2.0 (also, John Pacini), that I somewhat reluctantly decided to make the trip despite the funds involved and the lack of them coming in. I’m glad I did.
I was greeted by familiar faces (lots of the DadCentric team!) too numerous to mention here (plus I know I would forget someone and subsequently feel like a jerk), and many new faces that became fast friends. What can I say, I’m a people person.
There were engaging conversations about parenting, dads, writing, media, brands, and peanut brittle. Who decided it was a holiday thing? Peanut brittle is awesome all year.
There were things to do, things to learn, and things that I will never forget. There were also plenty of things that didn’t apply to me at all, which is fantastic, because they were presented in an open and honest manner, allowing for curiosity and contemplation when needed, or judgmental silence where warranted. And sometimes I was just looking toward the distance and thinking about my family.
I managed to find room in my bag for a big box of Legos and pinned my newfound focus next to the heart on my sleeve. I had gone to Austin in hopes of finding what I wanted, a job, which didn’t happen, but I came home with something equally important (though less help financially) — I came home with what I needed, and that feels pretty damn good.
No, it wasn’t peanut brittle.
This is the only picture I took. It is the only picture I needed.
And a couple of photos that Charlie took so that he could enjoy me at his leisure:
Here I am blowing (save it) out the candle on my birthday cake thing which I then shared with the 10 other bloggers at the table. Yes, I’m eating soup and salad. I believe I have already established that I am sensitive like that. Special thanks to Bruce and Charlie for buying my birthday lunch!
And this is what Andy (Betadad), Charlie (How to be a Dad), and I do when we sit outside a gas station for two hours waiting on a cab. Yes, we were posing for album covers. So what? The band is called DadShart. We’ll be touring this spring. Mostly smooth jazz.
For the purpose of total transparency, let me say that I stole the following thank you list of sponsors from John Cave Osborne. Literally, I broke into his blog when he was out grilling eggs or whatever the hell they do in Tennessee and just took it. He had it coming.
Also, I got shot. Thanks to Stacy for reminding me of what was, obviously, a very dark time for me.
Don’t worry, I’m okay. Relatively.
Photo by Caleb, who was, as always, exceptional.
As you know I dabble behind the camera with a little thing I like to call making movies. It pays the bills. Oh wait, no, it actually creates bills, I always get those two mixed up.
But I digress. I recently stepped in front of the camera because the guys at How to be a Dad were very, very desperate and didn’t know any other men suffering from hair loss. The video is about those three magic words that mean so much. You know what I’m talking about.
Give the guys a THUMBS UP (on YouTube, not like the Fonzie) on the video so they invite me back!
Visit Charlie, Andy, and a cast of thousands (give or take thousands) at the How to be a Dad website and subscribe to their channel on Kin Community.
Thank you, and goodnight.
The kids are home from school today. I asked them if they knew why.
“Because it’s a holiday,” said the oldest.
“It’s Dr. King’s day,” said the youngest.
I asked them if they knew why we celebrated the life and achievements of Martin Luther King.
“Because it’s a holiday,” said the oldest.
“Because he did great things for civil rights,” said the youngest.
And then he sang a song about the man and what those great things were. The works of Dr. King had been the primary focus of his kindergarten curriculum for the previous week, and he had taken it to heart, for that is where his songs are kept.
I looked at the oldest, “Haven’t they talked about Dr. King at school?”
“Do you remember me talking to you about him last year?”
And then I sat down and explained to two small children about ignorance and hate and how they manifested themselves in the belly of a nation.
“That’s like that Nina Simone song,” said the oldest, and I smiled softly, because it certainly was. Then he hummed a few bars.
I spoke in gentle detail about harsh realities, and I couldn’t help but regret the need to do so. Their faces were alive with disgust and confusion, and the more we spoke the more another layer of innocence slipped away.
“Were they Nazis?” asked the oldest. That was an evil he understood. Between The Sound of Music, Indiana Jones, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks he was well-versed in the fear such a movement could cause. It caused great fear in him.
“They were people that had been taught to hate,” I said. “Dr. King taught them to dream and love.”
“I wonder why we didn’t talk about it at school,” he said as his voice drifted off in the direction of the open window, and his thoughts seemed to follow.
“People still need to dream,” he said.
His 8-year-old wisdom was deeper than anything I could offer, so we let it hang there in the air around us. The boys both pressed close against me with a tenderness they reserve for moments of quiet and reflection, and the moment became just that.
Then the youngest sang his song in careful whisper and the oldest sat still, his arms around his brother, his head upon my heart, and he listened.
Photo by Emma Rödjer; drawings by the kindergarten class
The night before Christmas was, once upon a time, the night that my family came together to celebrate the holiday. We would all meet at the home of my grandparents and have dinner, some laughs, and a gift or three. However, it, as all things of childhood tend to do, slowly lost its magic piece by piece, year by year, until it became an exercise in survival, closet drinking, and gift receipts. The year my grandmother died the illusion shattered like a snow globe against the kitchen floor — so much glass, so many flakes.
And yet the memories of those early years are among the best that I have. Christmas Eve was the pinnacle of childhood joy. The air was thick of happiness and the forced smiles of people that, thanks to the soothing tone of my grandmother, hid their resentment of each other from the rest of us — at least those of us too naive and innocent to recognize such things. It was everything I wanted.
Christmas Eve isn’t what it used to be. My extended family has long retreated into their own camps, their own trenches. Their fires can be seen from holiday cards and Facebook greetings. They seem happy and fairly healthy, which is better than any gift I could have found for under $25. They keep Christmas in their own way, and I wish them well accordingly.
The years have turned and my vantage point with them. My lens on the world is now one of parent. Christmas is no longer about savoring the magic, but the creation of it. My goal, as it is always, is the happiness of my children, only more so. It is through them that I find my joy. It is through them that I embrace the season.
We may not spend Christmas Eve with cousins or grandparents, but we spend it. The traditions of my youth have given way to new experiences. Some stick. Some float away like so many ghosts of Christmases past.
In the early light of Christmas morning with their hair unrestrained and their bodies wild, they move like a memory. They fly unwired and work without a net. There is nothing more real than my children in that moment — that moment where all they know dances with all I knew, and a lifetime of lessons and milestones melts down to now. Now, the moment that I am there again, too innocent to realize that innocence doesn’t last forever, and far too happy to care. It is the pinnacle of joy, and the only gifts that matter are two small boys smiling wide, their eyes filled with stars and wonder.
It is everything I wanted.