Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Stumbling Toward Maturity

Last night I had a vivid dream about looking for arch support inserts. Is this what I have become? A man so interested in good arch support that his nocturnal visions, a time for unchecked whimsy and self-indulgence, concern finding comfortable shoes rather than something more interesting like, say, sailing a pirate ship or dating Lili Taylor (with Denver Mom's permission, of course)?

I have a theory about aging. I don't think that you ever truly get old, but there is a list of things that only adults do. The more things on that list that you can check off, the more adult and mature you happen to be, regardless of your actual chronological age. Here are some examples:

1. Made an appointment with a doctor to have something removed

2. Gone to a funeral or wedding of someone you never actually met

3. Refused to eat something because it gives you heartburn/gas/bad breath/whatever

4. Read the instructions for a new household (television, blender, electric toothbrush, etc.) device before turning it on and just trying it out

5. Tracked your gas mileage and actually found it interesting

6. Got excited about buying new socks

7. Actually have conversations about how much you like pudding

Unfortunately, most of these items are cumulative and push your maturity level higher and higher. For example, I've gone to three funerals of people I didn't know. THREE! That puts me just a couple notches beneath the point where you watch "Murder, She Wrote" on purpose. And, I've been known to go on at length about how I think tapioca is an under-appreciated flavor of pudding. So, "Early Bird Special," here I come!

In a lot of ways, being a dad follows the same sort of list. Obviously, you *do* just suddenly become a dad. It's not something you work up to over time, like becoming more mature, but I think there are a number of choices you make that add up to being a good dad, someone who fits that label in deed and action.

1. Spending more time at the park than on the couch

2. Being able to recite two or more Dr. Suess books from memory

3. Actually knowing how to use sun-block (that includes all the little "rules" about applying it 30 minutes before you go out, knowing when to reapply, etc.)

4. Not using your custom-built subwoofer when watching movies after your son's bedtime and not really missing it all that much either

5. Cutting down on your weekend skiing/golf/football/Nascar/whatever to spend time with your family and not because you were asked

6. Buying a new car seat instead of an X-Box 360

7. Being able to make waffles/pancakes/whatever on Saturday morning

8. Knowing your child's nap and snack schedule and sticking to it when you have your child for the day

It's not a complete list. I'm just learning some of them myself.

Pop Art Chunk

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Difference A Day Makes

My son loves me again. Last night, he didn't want anything to do with me. Read a night-night story? Fat chance, fat man! Give me momma or prepare for me to bring the pain... THE PAIN! (insert strobe lights and dramatic echos here)

Or it was something like that. I don't know if the actual evening contained witty pro-wrestling banter, but it was close.

Tonight? Hugs. Kisses. More hugs. His toy lion? Got a kiss from him too, compliments of my boy. If melting when my boy wraps his arms around me makes me a wimpy man, then so be it.

The New Economy of Fatherhood

I've acquired an annoying habit. For the last year or so, I've been gauging all of our expenses in terms of their equivalent in boxes of diapers. Being a dedicated "warehouse shopper" I get Chunk's diapers in bulk and one of his massive boxes of 120-140 diapers run around $35. So, to illustrate, here are a few examples:

Monthly internet charge: 1 box of diapers

A tank of gas: 1 box of diapers

An afternoon date with Denver Mom: 1 to 2 boxes of diapers (yes, we're *that* cheap)

A trip to the grocery store: 2 to 3 boxes of diapers

Denver Mom's trip to France this summer: 85 boxes of diapers

Our "new" used car: 285 boxes of diapers

Our national debt: So many that even Chunk couldn't fill them

It's an interesting way to view our consumer-orientated world ("interesting" is a euphemism for "sick") and has spread throughout my life into work. I just submitted a proposal for 285 boxes of diapers, for example. I'm not sure if our board would understand the significance of that, but it's a whole lot of diapers.

So what does this all mean? Well, for the past few months I've been coveting a new MacBook Pro to replace my aging and ailing iBook. They're fast, shiny, and better suit the demands I make of my computer on a daily basis (another euphemism, this time, for "just really want it"). Unfortunately, a new computer runs approximately 57 boxes of diapers plus tax (another 2 or 3 boxes). And, that's for the low-end MacBook Pro. The one I want would run a whooping 72 boxes of diapers! 72!!!

Would I benefit from a new computer? I certainly would. I could use it for work and home, but am I worth 72 boxes of diapers? Is pampering myself on that magnitude something I could justify, especially when you consider that what we're really talking about is 10 months of child care. Or, 1,250 boxes of those Goldfish crackers Chunk loves so much.

Do you see where this is going? Yes, that's correct, right into a straightjacket.

How did this happen? It's one thing to deny myself a new toy because of budgetary considerations. It's another thing altogether to do it because I can't wrap my brain around the fact that what I'm really talking about is 10,080 individual diapers.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Cranky Baby + Cranky Dad = Cranky, Lousy Time

Lately, being a dad hasn't been very fun. Saying that kills me, but it's true. Having reached the stage where he's learning how to express himself more and more, especially his frustration, he's been challenging. And, he's been challenged, frustrated with being unable to express himself he's taken up hitting, which is leading to a number of problems, the most profound being some time outs.

Does that mean I love him any less? Of course not. In a lot of ways, I'm finding that as he pushes me and tests his own limits, I love him even more. His hugs are stronger now, more committed. They are also more random. Swooping down on me like some klutzy bird of prey, he wraps his arms around me and sometimes gives me a long, exaggerated, no doubt germ infested kiss, for reasons I can never seem to fathom. He just does it at weird, random intervals, and it obviously means something positive. Why question that?

But, still, I'm just not having fun.

I think a lot of it has to do with my work schedule. I set some very ambitious goals for myself when I started my new job and my ambition has paled by the flood of additional opportunities that piled on top of my own projects, nearly leveling me with their onslaught of deadlines and forms. So, I've been distracted. Even when I'm taking a break and exploring a new playground with Chunk, my mind is churning with thoughts of cover letters and proposals and follow-up telephone calls.

I need to get out of my own head for a while. I need to be Denver Dad when I'm at the playground with my son, and not "that guy who has three projects due on the 1st and plays with his son occasionally too." Maybe when it's not fun being a dad, it's not very fun having a dad like me. That's a troubling thought.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Walking Wounded

No, we're not dead. Sometimes it feels like death would be a sweet release, but the Dark Lord that commands our son has even more suffering for our little family and isn't ready to abandon his favorite playthings just yet.

Chunk is a huge, walking bruise. Last weekend, he fell face first into a display at the Lego Store, giving him an incredibly macho looking black eye. Then, three days later, he managed to make an impressive bell sound by smashing his forehead into a metal pole at the playground, summoning an equally impressive black and green bump right above his shiner. Despite his best efforts, when he smashed his forehead into my computer tray this morning it only resulted in a bit of pink agitation and tears, but no swollen blemishes of bad parenting.

Ah, yes, going out in public with an obviously bruised child. No one warned me about how much fun that would be. Complete strangers offer their well wishes (which is nice), condolences (nice, but unnecessary... his eye didn't exactly fall out), and concern via what could best be described as a court deposition (annoying as hell, especially since I don't have a lawyer).

"How did that happen?"

"Was he pushed down?"

"Weren't you watching him?"

At a brunch with my family on Mother's Day, I joked that Chunk was getting "lippy" and needed to be put in his place. Har har. Yes, the family thought it was quite funny. You can't tell that joke to other people. It'll get you arrested.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

There's Sick And Then There's SICK

Chunk is sick again. Not that he'd notice, of course. He's blissfully unaware of the steady stream of ick that is running from his nose and onto anything unfortunate enough to get caught in his path. He's like a little mucus version of a hurricane and having experienced a typhoon first hand, I have to say, I'm more afraid of my son.

Speaking of fear, I was talking to a coworker today about some of the weirdness involved with parenthood. She confessed that her young daughter has this compulsion to watch her and her husband go to the bathroom. If they manage to sneak a trip to the loo without her, she completely freaks out. Apparently, it's gotten to the point that my coworker has to use bathrooms in remote parts of the house to get a little privacy.

Is this normal? Is this creepy? I'll admit, my first reaction wasn't a positive one, but I'm starting to think that there's a lot of strangeness that goes on between parents and their kids. I don't think I've had more than three showers alone in the last six months, because once Chunk hears the water start up, he comes running. Come to think of it, he's not very respectful of privacy in the bathroom, either.

Can I think of any strangeness that went on when I was a kid? Not really. Still, there must have been something that I thankfully outgrew before it got truly creepy.

What are your "my kid is creepy" stories?