Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"The Talk", a Grown Up Post by a Semi-Adult

It was a big week for my little family.  Soccer season ended, for one thing, but something much bigger had to end as well.

My wife and I had known for a long time that it was time to have “the talk” with our eldest, Avery.

Avery is in sixth grade and is sweet and generous and innocent.  She doesn’t talk boys or makeup and only got her ears pierced a few months ago.  She is exactly the kind of girl a first-time dad would ask for.

But still, it was time for the talk.

My wife and I decided that it would be best to do this sort of thing over breakfast, out of the house, without her sisters around.  

Some would say that having this sort of talk may not be best suited for a restaurant, you know, because of her reaction, and subject matter, and mostly because of Dad’s reaction.  The fact is that I had been prepping for this conversation for half of a decade.  I was ready, Mommy was ready, and we hoped Avery was, too.

We sat at local, Dr. Seuss themed restaurant, because Fort Collins is awesome.  My wife and I ordered coffee and out breakfast and we let Avery order whatever she wanted.  She opted for a hot chocolate and a combo meal with bacon and sausage and eggs and French toast.  Where did the little girl go that insisted on ordering the Green Eggs and Ham?

We waited for our drinks to arrive and began our talk with our little girl.

“Sweetheart” Adrienne began, “You’re getting older and there are some things you should know.”
Avery looked nervous.

“You know how sometimes mommy and daddy stay up later than you do?” Adrienne advanced.

“I guess”.

“Do you ever wonder why?” Adrienne asked.

“Not really”, it became clear that Avery had no interest in pursuing this string of conversation.

“Well, there are certain things that only happen at night” Adrienne said.

“Like what?” Avery asked nervously.

“Well, sometimes it is to move the Elf on a Shelf, sometimes it is to take a tooth from underneath your pillow, sometimes it’s to place your Santa gifts.”

To anyone confused about what “the talk” I’m talking about, that “the talk” won’t be happening for another 23 years.  This “the talk” is talking about the man in red, the egg hiding bunny and the fairy that is way too obsessed with teeth.
Avery is very innocent and we feared that she would be one of the few kids still genuinely believing that there is a man that would be shoving his expansive posterior through my flue.

I was wrong, completely.

Instead of tears or doubt we had a calm “I know.”

“I know?” I thought to myself.  Here is where being a dad gets difficult.  I should have been happy that she was okay.  I should have been relieved that there weren’t waterworks.  I should have been proud that she put together the pieces and figured it out for herself.  I wasn’t any of those things.  My gut reaction was sadness that my little girl isn’t as innocent as I thought and a little pissed that she had become such an adept liar that she could keep it to herself.

Both reactions would be short lived.

“How’d you figure it out, sweetheart?” I asked expecting to hear that some little jerk at school let her in on the secret.  Not so much.

“We’re pretty relaxed as a family but not every family is that way.” She answered.

“What do you mean?” I asked genuinely confused.

“Well, some guy coming into your house without being invited is breaking and entering, right?  So, we’re okay with it, but not every single family out there would be okay with it.  Someone would press charges.” She offered matter of factly.

The lesson here, girls?  Admittedly, daddy is reluctant to let you grow up, mommy too, just not as much.  Because of my reluctance I may not notice that it’s happening, selective attention, I suppose.  If I’m missing something I shouldn’t be, don’t be afraid to let me know.  I’m trying the best I can but in the grand scheme of things, I’m pretty new at this.

All of that being said, I’m serious about the 23 years till the ‘birds and the bees’ thing.  If you want that talk sooner, ask your mother.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Can Dog's Get Married and Other Burning Questions My Kids Shouldn't Ask

For the last three decades or so my Thanksgiving table has always regaled out guests the guests with the story of me (loudly) asking in a grocery store check out line if the person in front of us was “a boy or a girl”.  Apparently, my seven-year-old eyes had never seen a man with long hair and it confused my little brain.  My aunt tried to explain that it was a man, but, as the story goes, I wasn’t done asking questions (loudly).

Fast forward to 2018.  I’ve had discussions with my daughters about gender and race and about anyone being able to love anyone they choose.  We’ve taught them that judging people for things outside of their control makes them a bully.  We’ve tried to cover all of our bases, but you never know.

A few days ago, I had dropped off my two older girls at their respective soccer practice and took Darby home to get her ready for hers.  As we got out of the car we were greeted by the noses of two dogs who were eager to make Darby’s acquaintance.  Holding the dogs was a young woman who explained that she was new to the neighborhood.  I introduced myself, as did Darby.  We discussed dogs for a moment and explained that she may be seeing our dog, Otto, around the neighborhood as he is a bit of an escape artist.  A few moments later, our new friend introduced her fiancĂ©, who was also a pleasant young woman.

Here is the part where I tell the reader that I’ve explained to my daughter that anyone can love anyone, but I was also waiting to find out if those lessons stuck.  I was waiting for my “is that a boy or a girl?” moment.

That moment seemed longer than most.

Then she asked her question.  My heart stopped as I waited for the rush of embarrassment.  Her question was “are your dogs getting married, too?”

“No sweetheart,” the first of the young women laughed, “they’re just friends”.

I don’t know whether or not the ladies heard my exhale but we spoke for another couple of minutes and Darby continued with the dogs.

When we walked into our house Darby looked at me intently.

“She was a girl” She asked.

“Yes, sweetheart”

“And her fiancĂ© is a girl?” she pursued.

 “Yep, is that okay with you?” I asked.

“Well yeah, but do each one of them own one of the dogs or do they both own both?”

I smiled, “We’ll have to ask them next time.”

The lesson here girls?  Not much of one really, because it seems like the lesson has already stuck.  I’m always proud of you three for how you treat others.  I think that there are a lot of adults who could take a lesson from you three.

Maybe the lesson is for me.  Maybe the fact that I had doubts about whether or not Darby would say something inappropriate it a sign that I’m a dinosaur and that the next generation has us covered assuming we get that far.  I hope that’s the case.  In the mean time, I think I need to look into dogs getting married.  I think Otto would like the idea of having a Mrs. Otto in his life.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Uh Oh, Its the "P" Word

My home has been invaded.  Over the years we’ve had a house fire, we’ve had a break-in, we’ve seen storms and financial hardships.  There have been scary times for us, but this invader is not like any we’ve ever encountered.

We noticed it emanating from our downstairs bedroom.  From Avery’s room.  

You could barely notice it at first.  If my wife hadn’t pointed it out I wouldn’t have seen it.  It came in like a lamb, but it would soon be a lion.

It was so subtle that I convinced myself it was no big deal.  Realistically, it wasn’t even affecting me.  It seemed to be taking the worst toll on Avery, of course, but my wife as well.

I’ve heard of guys having the same problem in their homes and I decided it was an obvious overreaction.  

I’ve never been more wrong.

It started to affect me, too.  It started small.  I asked Avery if she had a good day at school and instead of her usual response of “It was great!”, I got an “it was fine”.  No big deal.  I pursued it a little and decided that she was tired and needed a little less phone time before bed.  No problem.

A few days later I asked her to straighten up her room.  She was having a friend over before soccer practice the next day and this was the only time she would have to clean it.  She said she would get it taken care of and I left it at that. 

An hour later I went downstairs to her room.  She was watching T.V. and her room looked like a bomb went off in it. Her response was that she will “get to it”.  It was a very un-Avery response to an Avery situation.  We had a discussion about responsibility and listening, but it seemed to go in one ear and out the other, even more than usual.  

The there was the smell.  Her feet, her room, her clothes all took on a different smell.  The more she sealed herself in her room the denser the smell became. 
I finally asked my wife what was happening.  “Are you sure you want to know?”  was her response.
“Of course.” I answered. 

Of note, I put “you don’t want to know” in the same camp as “does this smell funny to you?”.  These are phrases that are a get out of jail free card that are readily ignored.  “Of course,” I answered.  I’m an idiot.

“Well, our little Avery is becoming a young woman.” She said.

I’m an idiot, and I think my face must have reflected it.  Like if you hand a monkey a cell phone.  Curious but dumbfounded.  

“It’s puberty, sweetheart.”

Curious became incredulous.  The monkey smashed the cell phone.  “She’s eleven.  That’s impossible!”  

In a rush, a flood of hints flashed through my head.  I think I’ve washed training bra’s, her friends are getting taller than me, her interest in stuffed animals and Disney programming is almost non-existent.  

Puberty.  Damnit.  This was my little girl.  When my second was born Avery and I became best of friends.  Mommy was occupied with new baby.  We’ve always had a special bond.  She is shy like I was growing up.  She’s an avid reader.  We wrote a book together.  My initial response was that she betrayed me.  Stupid, I know, but why was my little girl becoming a lady?  It’s too soon.

But it’s not.  I’m just crossing into unfamiliar territory.  Shitty, boy riddled, angst filled, bra wearing, unfamiliar territory. 

The lesson here, girls?  Or should I say young ladies?  Daddy is here for the long haul.  I’m proud of you and all you are becoming but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to get squeamish from time to time.  I’m going to miss the little girls that you were but that doesn’t mean I won’t take you to the store for things that make me uncomfortable.  

Long story short?  I’m here for you.  I’ll talk about whatever you want.  I’ll do whatever you need.  Just remember, Mommy loves this stuff, so maybe try her first! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Death in The Family....Exit The Claw

I like it when pets die.

That came out wrong.

I like it when my kid’s pets die.

I suppose that isn’t any better.

I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world when my kid’s pets die. 

There.  That’s right.  

But I’ll clarify.  Pets die.  It’s an unavoidable truth of having animals come and live in your home.  Another unavoidable truth is that different pets hold different values in the family structure.  Put away your pitchforks pet lovers, I’ll explain.

Imagine for a moment that you have a house fire.  You’ve gotten your spouse and kids out of the home and all of your important family heirlooms have been safely locked away in a safe deposit box.  Let’s presume that you have a few pets still locked in the house.  You have…

  1. A dog.  An adorable black lab who has been a loyal member of the family for the last 6 years.
  2. A cat who despite being a touch aloof, tends to sit on your lap during The Walking Dead.
  3. A parrot.  Not a great conversationalist but she set you back a few hundred dollars and has a 10-decade lifespan.
  4. A pair of hamsters named after Bill S Preston Esquire and ‘Ted’ Theodore Logan.
  5. A Goldfish.

Okay.  The house is burning and despite their commitment to safety, the firefighters called to save the day allow you to go in and recover one pet.  How many times out of a hundred do you choose the goldfish?  Zero, right?

All pets are not created equal but that isn’t to say that they can’t all serve a purpose.  Some pets are “teaching pets”.  

In our house we have an axiom we live by: Balloons and Goldfish.  There are some things that just don’t last.  We’ve lost an aquarium worth of fish over the years and never has a tear been shed.  The girls know.  Balloons and goldfish.  They just don’t last.  

“Why are you writing this?” you may ask.  “Why are you basking in the death of small children’s small pets?”

You’re right to ask.  Here goes.  At some point over the last 48 hours one of Macy’s hermit crabs shed its mortal coil.  For those who read this blog will remember this ex-crab.  Two days after we adopted “The Claw” he made a heroic escape and explored our house for a week before making his way back into Macy’s room.  He was a good crab because of his cool name and because of his ability to survive despite long odds.  He survived a half of a year longer than he should of, but now he is no more.  Macy is crushed.  She loves animals and short of some off-brand guppies we had a few years ago, The Claw was the first pet that was hers alone.

We had a funeral in our garden after dark last night.    The Claw was lovingly placed in a sunglass case with a note from his owner and buried.  Each of us said a kind word about the decapod and we went inside.  Macy woke me up around 10:00 last night and wanted to talk.  Honestly, she asked the questions an eight-year-old should ask.  Why did it happen?  Where is he now?  Can I get a new one?

The lesson?  This one is simple.  Everything dies.  The thing is, dying is what makes life worth living.  What would be the point in embracing the little things in life if you knew they would always be there?  Losing a pet prepares you a little for the bigger hurts that will undoubtedly come as you get older.  Its never easy but getting a little experience with the temporary nature of this whole experience isn’t as awful as it sounds.  Getting a taste of what it feels like to lose someone when the stakes are low is good.  Here is where it comes full circle, all pets serve a purpose, if only to be buried in a backyard garden and have kind words said. Macy, I hate seeing you hurt and if I could bring back “The Claw” I would, but I am comforted in knowing that the little crustacean that lived in your room has helped teach you a little about death, and that, little girl, is important, too.  

I don't want any of the three of you to know the ins and outs of death, but a little grasp of it is useful.  Heck, your old man won't be around for ever.  So, assuming all goes as planned, you girls will be sneaking my ashes into Coors Field or taking them on a scuba trip and I can’t have any of you panicking!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Daddy and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The last few days have been a dungstorm of craptastic garbage.  A root canal with intestinal flu kind of an experience.  No one died, no family illness, just an unfun experience of a weeklong window.  

I’ll explain. 

First of all, there were some unexpected expenses, and I mean a bunch of them.  School started, and soccer got into full swing both carrying with them an assortment of expenses.  I mean school clothes and supplies and uniforms and back to school nights with donations for whatever else. For some reason every household bill came due on the same day and Adrienne had to travel twice for work which has its own expenses and it own stresses.  It would have been quicker just to throw my wallet into a bush and walk away.

Then there’s the time part of it.  With Adrienne out of town and me becoming daddy day care, my days became very long.  Avery is playing soccer and running cross country.  Her running coach said to me, with a straight face mind you, that “I understand that she is in soccer, plenty of the kids are.  I understand completely.  So just bring her to cross country ON THE DAYS SHE’S NOT IN SOCCER”.  To those uninitiated in the world of parentdom, this is a tall order.  

“Yeah, no problem” I replied but inside I’m thinking “Holy hell, how in the love of everything sacred and holy can I add another drop-off/ pick up to every day of the week?” For the first time every I began to consider that cloning humans isn’t such a bad call.  

I know from personal experience that when I stress, I grind my teeth when I sleep.  To date, I haven’t ground one out of my head.  I changed that the other night.  I cracked one of those guys in two.

This morning I was driving the girls to school.  It was a tight gripping eyes forward sort of a drive.  A wits end sort of thing.  The kind of time where you are keeping your shit together by a thread.  A thin, frayed thread. I was trying to get the girls to school and then find a moment to regather myself on the way to the office.   It was that moment when I realized that my computer was still sitting on my couch.   Something in me broke.  I was at a red light and I put my hand through what hair I have left, frustrated.  Just then, my eldest asked me, “What’s wrong, daddy, you seem sad.”


“Nothings wrong sweetheart, I didn’t sleep very well last night.”  That was the truth, but not the whole truth and not nothing but the truth.  Daddy hadn’t been sleeping very well at all lately.  Nor has he been eating very well or been running the way he usually does.  He’s tired, he’s stressed, he doesn’t know when things will lighten up and now he is in the unenviable position of lying to his daughter to cover it up.  I dropped them off and made the slow trek back to my house to retrieve a computer bag that should have been with me all along.

With the notion of being concise, I’ll suffice it to say that the rest of the day failed to improve on its beginnings.  

At dinner my daughter asked me if things had gotten better.  They hadn’t.  This time I was more honest. I let her know that I hadn’t had a great day but that I was happier now seeing them and having dinner as a family.  She seemed happy with my answer but still gave me an extra hug at bedtime.  

The lesson here girls?  I can think of a couple.  First, everyone has a bad day here and there.
Everyone has times where they feel the world is conspiring against them.  That you feel like the eye in the sky is a mean kid with a magnifying glass.  You know what, maybe it is.  Maybe you have periods where you have to take your lumps.  Maybe you need a chance to take the fetal position in the middle of your bed and wait for tomorrow.  The thing you have to realize is that whether karma is actually out to get you, or you are just seeing it that way, its temporary.  It’ll go away.  Stay strong, you’ll be fine.  The other thing isn’t quite as easy to talk about.  I have bad days.  Mommy does, too. 
I remember growing up a lot of years ago and seeing Grandma working three jobs to make ends meet.  One of her jobs had her proofreading phone books from home.  You read that correctly, she proofread phone books.  Try to design a worse job in your head.  Impossible. But I digress, one day, I walked in on her doing her proofreading and she was crying onto the pages.  I asked her what was wrong, and she said that her eyes were bothering her from the proofreading.  Now, that may have been the truth, but not the whole truth and not nothing but the truth.  I imagine Grandma was tired, sick of working as hard as she was and let the mask slip for an unguarded moment.  Here’s the thing.  She worked those jobs to make sure her kids were okay.  She may have been tired and hurting but I bet she wouldn’t have changed it.  

The same goes for me and mommy. Some days it feels like a lot of pressure, but it’s okay.  Sometimes we let our guard down, but its because we trust you and trust that you know how much we love you.  

So, yes sweetheart, daddy was sad, but he isn’t now.  He will be again someday, but it won’t last.  No need to worry.  He’ll be goofing off with you in no time, making mommy sad!