Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Dad I Am

I’m not the dad I thought I’d be. I’m patient but not as patient as I imagined. Before I had kids I couldn’t imagine that I would be a Yelling Parent. Now I wonder if I will ever stop yelling.  I don’t think I’m making the same mistakes my parents did but God knows I’m making my own.  When I thought about being a dad I always pictured moments and how I would react in them- how I would deal with a kid having a public meltdown, how I would handle all the questions (I actually looked forward to that! I’d love having a curious kid and having the answers, I thought.)  I didn’t understand that parenting doesn’t feel like a collection of moments; it feels like a long, uphill rocky mountain climb. Yes, occasionally good things happen.  But you don’t get much time to enjoy them before you have to dive out of the way of a falling boulder.  And when those moments I had imagined do come I am so damn tired that I miss them. And the questions aren’t, “Why is the sky blue?” They are, “When are we going to Chuck E. Cheese? Why is it called Chuck E. Cheese? When are we going?” And they are asked 50 times before I’ve had my first coffee.  No one told me about this and I didn’t think to ask. 

I’ve had to move my “what-I-consider-a-good-dad” bar way down.  Now I think I’m doing good when I don’t yell mean things.  Apparently I’m going to raise my voice almost daily, but I won’t be abusive. That’s what it’s come to. “Sweet Jesus! Why the hell doesn’t anybody listen to me?  I am not going to ask again, pick up these goddamned toys RIGHT… NOW!” is a perfectly acceptable way for me to talk to my kids right now.  

I’ve always respected single parents. But now I practically worship them- those that are keeping it together anyway.  I’m at my wits end after spending 8 hours with my kids.  My wife does most of the evening parenting stuff and they pester her more than me on the weekends.  How do people do all of that-- the morning fight over clothes and brushing teeth, the day-long misery of work, the evening with kids who don’t want to eat what was cooked for supper and who splash like maniacs in the bathtub and fight like honey-badgers when it’s time for bed so that the parent barely has time to guzzle a glass of wine before going to sleep—alone? It’s damn near heroic is what it is because we have to share the planet with them and their kids and their success or failure affects all of us.  Next time you see a single parent whose kids are not ax murderers give them a hug and thank them like fucking crazy.

I still think I’m a pretty good dad. My kids are healthy and happy.  They trust me.  They know I love them. And more importantly, they don’t know how badly I want them to be older and more interesting.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Future Bra Burners

The other day my daughter, her friend, my son and I played a ball game in our basement. The girls made the rules up as we went but here are the basics:  We each held a ball, counted to 19, and threw it. Anyone who ended up holding two balls was the loser. Many times this led to my daughter and her friend saying to me, "You have two balls, you're a loser!" I tell ya, I was 18 before I realized that having two balls made me a loser! Kids grow up so fast these days.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Conversion

The following is based on a conversation I had a few years ago (some of my recollections of that day may be fuzzy) with a friend.  Our Township’s Board had recently approved a family’s proposal to turn their land into a gravel pit on the condition that all the trucks that would now be coming and going use a designated route to and from the state highway.  We’ll pick up the conversation with my friend saying:

“We sure like to tell people what to do in this State, don’t we?”

“I see your point…”

“But?  There’s always a ‘but’ with you, Tom!”

“You should have seen me when I was single! Maybe not a ‘but’, but certainly many fine pieces of…ahem, where was I? Oh yes…I see your point but... since we built those roads and continue to pay for their maintenance, why isn’t it ok to have an engineer tell us which roads can take the most abuse?  ‘We’, through our local government, won’t tell them they can’t build a profitable business for themselves using the roads we built right to their front door and continue to repair but we will tell them which of the roads they must avoid with those huge ass dump trunks. I guess they can either pay to improve all the county roads all the way to the state road themselves or they can take a right at the end of the driveway and use the road the engineer says will best take the abuse.  Either way, they get rich if they want. And this way our roads don’t crumble while they’re doing it.”

“Still, I have a big problem telling people what they can and can’t do.”


“Of course!”

“You’re a douche bag!”


“You heard me.”

“You can’t come in my house and…”

“A-ha!  It turns out you don’t have a problem telling people what they can and can’t do!”

“In my home, yeah!”

“So maybe you need to think of your community as your home, which it is of course. Then you wouldn’t mind if we made some rules that we all have to live by.  In other words:  Congratulations! You are a Democrat now! I’ll get you some bumper stickers next time I’m at the Home Office.”

“Damn."  He paused and looked at the ground. He scratched at the ground with his boots, delaying as long as he could the admission we both knew was coming. "Well, Tom, as always, you make a good point. And you look so good doing it.”


“I guess I am a Democrat. Who do I need to call?”

“We’re a pretty loose affiliation, as you may have noticed.  But you’ll start spotting other Democrats in crowds now. It’s pretty ease.  They’re the attractive ones.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oh, For Christ's Sake!

Today's Comment Section Takedown finds our hero (me) running into a Leviticus-quoting Boob in the comment section of a same-sex marriage story. You know the quote, it's the one which says that men who lie with men as they do women are committing abominations (You'll notice it omits kneeling.)

My response (I've reworked it a little.):

@Brunhilde (not her real name)-- Perhaps you should consider reading from the parts of the Bible that teach kindness. As I understand it, it is nearly impossible to read the whole Bible and come away with the message that God hates anyone (even fags). Indeed, if you want permission to be a decent, kind, understanding person you will find it in the Bible. This is especially true of the portion that was written after God (supposedly) sent his Son down to clear things up. Yes, it troubles me when followers of Christ quote from the Old Testament to prove his hate because they can't find proof of it in any of his own words. My impression has always been that Christians gave a fair amount of weight to Christ's words, no? I guess the thing is:  The Bible isn't helping you if you are rifling through it to find permission to stay the same miserable person; it's beauty (I hear) is not in its ability to "let you off the hook", it is that it challenges its reader to be a better person. Repent or perish!