Wednesday thoughts

Dad? Are you done yet?

No. I still have a full basket to do.

The younger one lied down on his back, looking up at the beams of the bedroom ceiling. I worked at a clipped pace in order to get the clothes stacked and put away before he got bored enough to start to un-fold things. I could tell I had at least a few moments left, as he starred in quiet contemplation.

Dad you know what? I want to make cheese popsicles. Did you know that? You can do that really? You get cheese and put it on a Popsicle stick and put it in the freezer.

Really? That sounds interesting. 

Dad, are you done yet now? Dad, you know there’s a place in the city of South America that you go into and there is a pool up on the sky roof and you go and get a key for it and a ladder drops down for you to climb it and you can swim up there. And I want to go to it. Do you know that?

I did not know that. That sound more fun then a cheese Popsicle.

Yeah. Are you done yet now Dad? Dad you know what? I one time when I was a big boy and you were a baby I did a flip off the bed and you landed up into the laundry basket.

Now you’re just being silly!

No Dad. No. I was a big grownup when you were a baby! 

OK! Ok. Fine, calm down.

You calm down. You baby. (Laughing) and you wear a diaper. And all you do is folding laundry.

Some days, it feels that way, but at least I have you to keep me company.

Are you done yet now Dad?

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Sink or Swim

The younger one squealed with delight as I chased him around the bench in the locker room trying desperately to get the swim trunks over his little middle. He came to a quick stop as he almost crashed directly into the group of naked elderly men coming in from the direction of the showers. Given pause by the sudden surreal moment, I snatched him up and hustled him over to the area where our locker was open and crammed with my dry clothes.

“Please don’t talk about their penis’, please don’t talk about their penis’, please don’t talk about their penis’…”

I repeated in my head as I am sure many other fathers have done in this situation, and begin to make all sorts of small talk to the child, in the hopes of keeping him focused on something other than genitals.

What kind of cake should I have for my birthday?

Lighting McQueen cake! That would be good.

But I’m not super into that. I mean what flavor?

Ummmmmmm, black cake. Dad? You um gonna have toys on your cake?

I haven’t decided yet, what do you think?

Um yes, like a bomb cake.

A bomb cake?

Yeah (he chuckle snorts) they you would have cake popped on you face when you blow it out!

By the time the older one had turned three, he had already had some sort of formal swim instruction, as well as a weekly swim date with his father or mother. As a result he enjoys being in the water, awkwardly kicking and splashing his way in one direction or another.

The younger one however has been totally neglected, which is sadly typical of our frantic life. Fortunately for us, right down the road a ways is a glorious community center with a modern and child friendly pool. I have recently become more determined then ever to get him comfortable in the water.

I never spent too much time in public swim centers as a child. We were fortunate enough to enjoy the luxury of a state of the art, metal sided and plastic lined above ground pool.

It was a larger variety, with brown sides and a yellow metal fold over top lip which would create a shelf wide enough to put a drink on, and simultaneously house yellow jacket nests underneath.

The family pool was kept clean by two very important features. Firstly, there was the chemical balance. My father, being a pharmacist, had a certain level of pride when getting the tackle box testing kit out of the shed. Holding us as a captive audience. He dipped in the tubes and dropped in the various drips of liquids. Then he would triumphantly hold up the card with the “correct colors” next to them to decipher what he should add.  Then I can only assume his intimate working knowledge of chemical balance would kick in, and he would add pounds and heaps of white powders that would give the water the cleanliness and swim-ability of some of the more potent acid pools in Yellowstone National Park. On quiet evenings, you could sometime hear the screams of bugs as they plunged and sizzled into those dark waters.

The second most important part of keeping the family pool clean was the pump and filters. The filters were long tubes attached to what looked like the engine from a push mower, and they would have to be hosed off weekly.  It was powered via an underground power line, which was dug in from the shed, and terminated in what could only be described as an outlet on a stick. All you would have to do to turn it on and off was simply go and plug or unplug it as you were standing in a huge of splashed out pool water.

So between having your eyes singed out of your skull, and being electrocuted, we were well positioned to love the water experience.

The thing I really like about our community center is the cleanliness. Cleanliness especially when it comes to rooms, whose engineering is based on tiles, has become something I pay more attention to now that I am raising two boys. There are times in our own bathroom when I have to wonder if they even have their eyes open when the pee.

After the customary pee, (or on difficult days, the #2) we make our way to the showers. Usually we encounter and number of more naked old men, who are busily chatting away about the market, golf game, or doctor visit, all the while cleaning themselves in every manner conceivable. More small talk with the boy is not necessary as he is too busy screaming about the mandatory pre-swim rinse. Upon leaving the locker room, we go down a small dark hallway. This small span of 25 feet is in fact, the coldest point on the surface of the earth. Science has yet to explain it. But it does allow for you to completely appreciate the semi-heated water of the pool. At least, I hope it’s heated.

We usually go to what is know as family swim. Family swim generally consists of one child to one parent, who for the most part cannot believe they have to put on a bathing suit in February.  The children usually toddle around the splashing fountains, or ride on the parent’s back with a larynx crushing hold as they glide into the deeper waters.

Open swim usually begins sometime after school hours. It consists firstly of grade school kids and their parents, who can’t believe they are at the pool either, but who can sit on the side fully clothed and play Angry Birds. But it really kicks into full swing when the pre-teens and teens start to roll in during the evening hours. Once you see the sheen of axe body wash on the surface of a noisy pool, you never go to open swim again.

Whoever designed the pool was merciful enough to make the wading area just deep enough for a parent to hide their winter shame just below the surface, while still being able to engage with their child in the pipes that shoot water, the dumping buckets, the geysers bubbling up which as we found out, you are not allowed to sit, stand on, touch, block or otherwise do anything but look at. In between getting out to run through the arctic hall to the bathroom. (At least he doesn’t pee in the pool) we are able to have a good hour or more to swim

Looking back at our brown aboveground behemoth pool in the day and age of infinity pools and grottos, it does seem a little dated. However it is easy to remember all those fun summers and realize just how lucky we were. Especially given the irony that my father does not swim. He does not even like to be in the water. He knows just enough about swimming to keep himself floating until help arrived. As a matter of fact, having the pool was essentially a huge pain in the ass for the man. You would have to store the endless bags of chemicals, as well as the hose/vacuum system that apart from being clumsy and awkward to use, was something that would need to happen weekly. Not to mention the trips to the pool supply store, which at that time was one of the only one in the state, and was 30 miles one way. But being the man he is, he did it for us- To give us the chance to fall in love with the water. To sit and watch his children create summer memories together doing something we all grew to love.

Once we are wrinkled from the water, and I can see he is getting tired; we reverse engineer the trip through the locker room. I sit and talk to him as he is wrapped naked dripping in his towel. His toes are brightly painted, a fanciful by-product my children watching their mother painting her feet. And combined with his hair feathering large from the pool water, I feel as though I have a shrunken member of Flock of Seagulls with me. I fight to get his clothes back on his dry-ish body, as he softly sings a song about a little red caboose while looking quizzically at the penis of the 68 year old man on the bench next to us. Until finally I carry him, still dripping and exhausted to the car.

Dad, did I do good at swimming today?

Heck yes you did!

Remember when I rode the noodle horse and fell off?! That was sure crazy!

Yes, it was. I am really proud of you today.

Dad you like swimming?

I do. But I like swimming with you more.

I watch him start to doze off in the back seat; hair still wet and skin faintly smelling of a childhood summers in the back yard.

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Time to play outside…

As I scrubbed the top of the kitchen counter, I could tell that my twenty minuets of clean time were almost up. Keeping my word, the younger one was allowed to watch only till the end of his little show, and judging from the music, my well-trained parental ears recognized another dramatic conclusion. 

As I went over and started to make a myriad of suggestions as to what he could start to play with in his room, I was caught off guard by a montage of children his age and younger playing freely and reading on T.V. There was a host of parent testimony played over top of it, singing the education praises of this particular channel; how it helped their son become interested in counting, or their daughter shouting a word in Spanish.

Then, (and this is the God’s honest truth) a very enthusiastic woman’s voice said (in a clearly overly-directed tag-line):

“…It’s like pre-school…on T.V!” 

Firstly, let me state for the record, I love T.V. I have no problem letting my two young children watch it in moderation. We have rules that can bend. We limit T.V through out the week and allow a little more for the weekend. 

I can remember watching T.V obsessively as a child. Firstly, because I was the youngest of five, and secondly, (I’m sure) because I have lots of tantrums about it. It was back in the beginnings of the cable age, and there were one or two channels for kids, plus a bevy of Saturday morning cartoons, and after school programming. 

I too was allowed TV with some limitations, and rarely was allowed (as a young child) to watch enough to turn me into a drooling mess, though many would argue I was that going into things anyhow. 

As parents, my wife and I are also tuned into what would be appropriate for them. We don’t let them watch cop dramas, or adult cartoons because of the violence, or the GOP race coverage because of the foul language (i.e.: Rick Santorum).

But to label something as “Preschool on TV?” 

Here I am married to a Pre K teacher who is apparently working WAY too hard! Just this morning, she woke up and was in the classroom by 7:15, setting up a farm on a huge piece of sod, when she could have simply cued up Blue’s Clues. 

Oh! The weekends I have seen her waste her family time! Not just her mind you, but the entire hall of classroom teachers busily setting up live insect tanks, freezing balloons of paint, making goop and gak in tubs, or cleaning up any number of clay projects, collage, flower pressing, color mixing and the like!

They could have simply and easily spliced one line of cable TV into those classrooms and gone to get their nails done.

Full set even.

This has made me wonder if I too could benefit from the new prestige of the powers of TV. I have watched many of Ken Burn’s movies, what’s the minimum for a Masters in history?

If I made it through the first 4 seasons of House, do I have to get a residency, or can I set up a private practice right away?

I caught 15 minuets of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, does that mean I am immune to the stomach flu going around?

Seriously though, let me address this directly to you TV, and TV marketing people:

Firstly, thanks for at least limiting the commercials on a couple channels, it was getting too hard to go to the store for mixers without spending an hour having to look at the toys.

But, really? Come on! Pre-School? Let’s be super honest, there are some educational values in some of these programs, ok, I can concede that. But you still have a book series, toy series and computer game series available for purchase, right?

Why not just call a spade a spade and stop trying to convince me otherwise. Here are a couple options for you (and there even free):

“(Insert network name)…Giving you enough time to clean around the base of the toilet.”

“(Insert network name)…because letting your kids see you have that first one at 11:30 makes you feel bad about having one at 11:30.”

“(Insert network name)…because if you and your partner try to wait to make love till their asleep, you’ll both fall asleep as soon as they do.” 

I’ll even do the excited voice over.

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My prediction…Pain.

I should have known better. The younger one’s energy was beginning to become more and more frenetic. His eyes darted all around him, unable to focus on anything.

I had the older one on my back, and was defending myself from his strong little arms from folding my windpipe like a plastic keg cup. He squealed with sheer delight as I gurgled and honestly gasped for air, silently wondering if I would now ever get them to go to sleep.

Then full speed, the younger one, with the speed of a jack Russell and the weight and height of a fire hydrant ran at me fist extended, the way a knight rears and charges at a joust. I watched in horror as time slowed down and my knees were unable to bend in time.

And it found its mark with fierce swiftness.

I remember pains from growing up. When younger, painful moments are now just a blur with the rest of things. Yet they are still there.

Falling out of a pine tree and getting the wind knocked out.

Loosing the front tire of a bike on a bluestone driveway, and having the doctor pull rocks from the hands.

Peering through a thick cardboard mailing tube on the suggestion of an older brother, only to have him smack the other end, and give me the most perfect black eye.

However parenting has created a whole new set of painful moments. Some are emotional, when they get old enough to do some things and not want your help. And others are ones that draw blood, leave bruises, and take longer to scab over.

I cruel irony is that the older you are getting as a parent, the more frail your body is becoming, while the stronger and more cruel the injuries from your children get.

There are the back and shoulder issues you might start to have when you find yourself carrying a car seat, ergo, Bjorn and other trappings of infants. That pain can quickly be elevated by carrying the then toddler around on your hip, as they always seem to get tired of walking at the farthest point from your house, car, wagon or bench.

Once you have your second child, headaches become more frequent as your brain is not given adequate time to ease into an extra average decibel you will have in your home. This is followed by an abrupt loss of hearing. (I have recently learned that this loss can be acute enough to filter out both children, and husbands)

Then there is one of my personal favorites, stepping on a small toy something in the dark of the night while going to the bathroom. The bottom of my feet bear the marks one might attribute to fleeing a home barefooted, through broken glass in an emergency. But in reality the scarring is due to the razor sharp edges of a Lego space ship. (The real pain of the situation, was that the next day I was charged by the older one of “Lego cruelty” and forced to rebuild it without plans)

As he removed his quivering, sharp fist from my midsection, I must have lost all color in my face. I would not know as my eyes had closed and tears sealed them shut. I dropped to my knees and then my front, forcing off the older one off. Luckily, he had my soft neck and spine to break his fall.

As I lay in the fetal position with a pain siren ringing in my ears, I had both of the boys; ambivalent I was immobilized still trying to kill me by jumping on my bent knees, or pulling my scalp off my skull. But slowly, the realization that I was out began to set in.

“I think he’s dead!” The older one chuckled as he slapped my on the face to check. (And he’s the one I am hoping will be a doctor…)

“Dad! DAAAAAD!” They younger one screamed into my ears. “You dead, Dad?”

I groaned. The older one went to tell mom that they had finally killed me, (she would be unable to hear him) and the younger one lay his body across the top of mine and hugged me. Because sometimes, I think they do it, just so they can care for you.

“I wuv you daddy I will safe you and git you band aide for you pee-pee.”

“Thank you. I will be ok. I love you too.” I managed to whisper.

“Let’s read me some train book.” He suggested, showing a rare merciful side

“Good idea. Go get it, ok?”

He ran off to his room, and I lay there, letting the carpet imprint itself on the side of my face…and healed.

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see world

Dad. You know why I like the killer whale best?

No. I do not. Why is it your favorite animal?

It’s not my favorite animal. It’s my favorite…like… type of whale.

Oh. Why is it your favorite?

Well firstly they are so big. They are like bigger than squids and bigger than sharks, well most sharks I think. And bigger than humpbacks!

I’m not sure they…

AND the can swim really good…

well*

It’s true! And they are even people that put then in big water cages so people will think they are cool.

The people, or the whales?

The whales are in the cages…

I know that. To show what’s cool?

…Yes…

No! People show them off in tanks, so people with think that the whales are cool, or those people are cool?

Yes.

Fine. What else?

Well sometimes, when the people are swimming with them, they get eated up. Like…the whale will eat them.

Yes, they have hurt people.

I know! But they mostly just want to eat other fish like sharks, and stuff.

Oh.

I saw one once, did you know that?

Really? Do you remember where?

Yeah. It was at the lake and I was all alone and at first I was afraid, but then I could tell it was a nice whale so I got on it and it gave me a ride on its back…

What? Why didn’t I see it?

Well nobody did. I was all alone for a second so nobody saw it.

I see…

I DID! You never believe me…

If you said it happened…

IT DID!

Ok, Ok! Calm down…

(pause)

I tricked you! (laughing) But they for seriously are my favorite whale…

Good to know. I like the blue whale.

Oh yeah! No, that’s my favorite whale…

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Don’t Mess With…

Dad, you know why they call it Texas? The older one asked as we watched the game.

Do you? I replied wondering if this was the lead up to a new joke.

Yes. It’s because that’s where you text. I waited for sly smirk. He was dead serious.

I think you are close, but it’s Tex-ass, not Text-ass.

Oh. He was disappointed.

I imagined a cowboy on an iphone: dude jsyk ur LH our of pen. llmao!

I still want to go there.

Really? I said a little surprised. Why?

There are pretty girls there. Right?

Well sure, I suppose there are pretty girls there. But there are pretty girls here too.

Oh. Right. I still want to go.

Oh. Ok. Let’s watch the game.

Ok.

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912 days into things

When I told the younger one sitting in the basket of the shopping cart that he should stop eating small bites from all the apples in the bag, his response was swift. His blue eyes, partly masked by his sweeping long blond bangs, stared coolly at me as he cocked his arm back and casually chucked the apple full force across the produce section.

“Hey buddy,” I started in quietly, afraid of other adults around me hearing, ”you had better get it together.”

“YOU better git it togefer.” He retorted without so much as a beat.

I lowered my voice and got in closer, this time out of a little fear of him.

“Santa is watching you.” I said looking at my angry, but still cute child.

“UUUGGGGHHHH! I Hate Santa!” He screamed from the shopping cart.

The parental “ace in the hole” tactic of the holidays has proven surprisingly ineffective against this fierce child.

Almost to the day the younger one turned 2 ½ officially, you could see the change take full shape. I had really never been hip to the idea of a child turning crazy around this age because, to be frank, the older one has always seemed a little crazy. However, his “rotten moments” have since proven nothing compared to his little brother.

In fact, the older one has also had to quickly learn to identify the signs of an upcoming explosion of rage from his little brother. Gone are the days when he would sit in love and joy with the baby, cooing and comforting him. Now, with one eye over his shoulder, he plays with his legos in secret. He has learned that when he tells his brother to leave him alone, fat and angry hands will untimely demolish everything he has created.

I stared in full shock at the small child. Hate Santa? Where do you even go with that? I tried desperately to sell the fear that parents can own at this time of year.

“What?! You better not say that, he will not bring you anything! No toys!”

“I DON’T CARE. Know what I’m going to do every-guy? I going to get you hot coffee on your head and melt your fat hair off at Christmas time. And I’ll give Santa a Nerf gun and he will get so happy to me I will get toys so there.”

This, one time sweet and snuggly child, had suddenly become a 36 lb mental patient, and so far none of the usual parenting tactics were working.

Normally, you can plan for a child who is going to start to get tired or hungry when you are out running errands. Those simple and daily needs are easy to catch before the tantrum trigger gets pulled. But suddenly you find yourself staring at your angelic gift as they take out a table of folded dress shirts in the department store all because you would not let them yank a new wallet out of it’s display box. And the first time it happens, you stand there next to the sales associate and stare with equal parts embarrassment, and total fear.

“Ok.” I said, trying to contain my anxiety. After all, I had a cart of groceries I could not afford to abandon, as well as several employees watching from behind their pallets of new stock. “I guess I will just have to call him and cancel your Christmas.”

He exploded in tears. I had won; I waited for his out stretched arms to hold me in apology. The begging of not to call. The remorseful ‘I love yous’ to begin.

“I HATE YOU DAD!” He screamed through his sobs. He then started to quickly and efficiently unload several items over the side as if he were bailing a rowboat.

My wife has recently begun to petition other parents of children that they should legally be a way to ship off your child from the age of 2-2 1/2 to about 3 ½ years old. At first, I thought this to be such a cruel thought from an otherwise caring and devoted mother. However, frantically picking items back up and putting them in the cart, I was beginning to see the logic in the idea. I began to feel empathy for Hansel and Grettel’s parents, and wondered if the story was wrong about the children’s ages.

After getting things situated, and pushing the cart, and crying child away from the area, I did the only thing I had energy for. I ignored him. I went about my shopping as if there was no child wailing away in the basket. I took my time, compared prices and even looked at a nutrition label.  And as quickly as he started in, I heard a sniff and a sigh, and then nothing.

“I done crying now Dad.” He said it so plainly, just to let me know.

“Good.” I said fearful of saying anything to light the fuse back up.

“I mam happy now.”

“That’s great. We’re just about done here.” I said as went down our list to make sure we had gotten everything we needed on it, and included one last impulse buy:

wine.

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