Posts Tagged ‘parent’
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
- John Gillespie Magee, Jr
The sound was low and it carried lightly across the aisle. It was the echo of children laughing and the flow of one boy splashing behind the waves of his brother. The video played across the glass screen, a small window held warm in loving hands beneath tired eyes and the gentle roar of engines, peering into mirth now past and the moments left to linger.
There were no awards or milestones, no unexpected need to clinch the gut from fear of laughter ripping it apart. It was just a video of two small kids jumping into cool, clean waters, over and over, a loop of innocence still playing despite the boys now dry and jumping through the elsewhere. The woman watched it with the patience of a saint and the love of a grandmother. And when it ended she watched another video marked different only by the season.
To those behind me it may have seemed that I had far too great an interest in the montage of her lifework, but in truth the images were lost to me aside from the casual glance given when pitches of glee kicked against my eardrum or the sudden flick of her wrist drew me there. Instead, I observed her like a time machine—a white-haired apparition of what should be. She watched video after video of her grandchildren, and I watched her soak it all in to be squeezed and cherished like a sponge saving memories for those days grown dry and far from smiles.
It was as close to my mother as I will ever be, and when the woman finished her viewing I shifted mine, floating through the heavens some 30,000 feet above the ground with thoughts to think and a ticket for my baggage—a loop of love bated on my breath, alive, and always playing.
People, you know who you are, often ask me what it is like to be a work-at-home dad. Some people tend to think it is all fun and games, never considering the fact that I’m putting in a collective 60+ hours each week in actual “work” for sources that actually “pay” me. Others think that it would drive them crazy—that they would never get anything done with kids underfoot. The latter is closer to the truth, but I would be a fool to complain about it. There are worse things than kids underfoot.
That said, here is a typical day in my life (in this scenario it was Tuesday):
The conference call was at 2:30, the same time that school lets out. I stood outside the classroom talking about these and those while smiling broadly at my son like he was the only one there.
We walked to the park, his hand in mine, my phone on mute and his mouth anything but. He ran off to play with his friends and I sat in the shade of a lonely tree nodding at people that couldn’t see me and drawing stares from those that could.
Every so often we would wave at one another.
This is my multitasking—a normal day of working at home and all that comes with it. There are lunches made over a warm breakfast, notes signed for stuff I skimmed, the frustrated scramble of forgotten things, and the grooming of two children that take it personally.
The routine: First we drop my wife off at work, and then I leave the boys to a new day of public education. Home is a sip of coffee, a dog to pet, a breath to take, and then I write until the phone rings. A knock at the door. An important email. Texts. Skype. Phone. The dogs are barking. The coffee is cold. Phone. Someone tagged me on Facebook. The deadlines go straight to voicemail.
There are not enough hours to get through half of it, and then I am standing in a school restroom haunted by the smell of aimless generations, helping my son make a square shield of tissue paper upon a cold, small seat of porcelain. I am talking into a microphone hanging loosely from my shirt, the topic is trending, and my son is grunting loudly.
I’m already on mute by the time the toilet flushes.
Sometimes working at home means working in a stall with a stinky 6-year-old, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Although I could do without the smell.
But wait, there’s more! After school I take the boys home and help them with their homework while trying to put the finishing touches on whatever project of mine was due the week before, and the phone. And the phone.
Then it is back to pick up my wife, a family walk on the beach, the rinsing of sand, a healthy dinner, a bit of TV, and just like that we missed bedtime again. There are teeth to brush, stories to share, kisses goodnight, and soon everyone is asleep but me.
I work for hours in a quiet house with a silent phone. There may be whiskey where coffee used to be. Sometimes there is both.
The sun rises over morning mist and flocks of noise. I am too often there to see it.
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.