Monday, August 18, 2014

Four years of daddyhood

Last Friday, my dad came down to visit, and when he left to take the three and a half hour drive home, he took my son, Logan, (who turned four today) with him to spend a couple of nights up at "Papa's Ranch". I had told Logan that he would be going up there for about a week beforehand. He's been up to my dad's before but always with my wife and me. He's also been away from us (once for a week) while staying with my wife's parents. The difference is that they live close by, so he sees them fairly regularly.

When we finished lunch, Logan started asking when it was time to go. He got into my dad's car and said goodbye to us with no drama whatsoever. When we talked to him the next day on the phone, he was having a great time.

I realize that there's nothing remarkable to all this, but I think that a lot of parents know what I mean that while it's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, it's a big deal to me. There were a lot of emotions going through me. First of all, he was finally old enough to go up there and spend a couple of days on his own. Next summer, he'll probably spend several days there just as his older cousins have in the past. Basically, it was a crossing of the threshold as he's clearly no longer a baby or a toddler but a little kid now. I was also immensely proud of him for being so confident - and I dare say that I'm a bit proud of my wife and me, as we probably did something right to have him be like that. Still, there's something kinda sad about the fact that he's so nonchalant about leaving us for a few days!

I've mentioned this before, but the best and most bittersweet advice I received when I first became a dad was that my job was to teach my son how to live without me. While he's obviously not going to be there for some time, it's safe to say that he's on his way. The thing is, I can understand overly-protective parents. At least, I can understand the instinct that drives it. But ultimately that kind of parenting can only lead to harm. They're not puppies who will still require your care when they reach adulthood.

Aside from all these mixed feelings, here are some other random notes and observations from me being a dad. I imagine that some of these are universal.

1. My feet hurt. Seriously. Little kids don't look where they're walking, and if you're not wearing shoes and they are, be prepared to have them step on your feet. Sure, they don't weigh as much as an adult, but when it happens repeatedly throughout the day, no matter how many times I caution him to be careful, it starts to add up.

2. It's like having a little drunk Jack Tripper living in the house. I have never seen a real life human being do as many pratfalls as my son. He's always spinning around, acting silly, and totally unaware of his environment. Try and ask him to stand in one spot for more than three minutes, and he'll fall down somehow.

3. Just when I think I'm about to engage in a conversation and/or explain something, everything gets derailed. He'll ask about something like whether a seal is a fish, and then when I try to explain what mammals are, he'll start talking about how he had ice cream yesterday. Stay on topic, dammit! (Actually, I'm noticing a bit of an evolution on this one - he seems to be able to stay focused on a conversation for at least a couple of minutes now as opposed to half a minute before.)

4. I'm trying my best to let him be his own person. When I was in my early twenties, I took my nephew to get some Star Wars toys. When he saw the Power Rangers toys, he told me that he wanted them, and I insisted that we were there to get Star Wars toys for him. Oh boy. How embarrassing. Good thing I waited until my late thirties, where I gained a little perspective, to have my son. As of now, he seems to be taking to superheroes and Star Wars, but I don't think that's so strange for a little boy. However, he's got some other interests, and he really loves monsters. For his birthday, I got him a Godzilla, which he insists is his favorite present. He also likes this show called Ninjago, and I got him one of those toys not too long ago. I guess there's always going to be some crossover in interests though when your dad is basically a little kid at heart himself.

He's not showing much interest in sports, but if he does, then I'll sign him up for something. As of right now, he doesn't get any exposure to it at home. However, we do have him in a couple of activities, both of which he loves: dancing and swim lessons. He really loves the dancing, and his teacher told us that he's doing a great job and he's always eager to volunteer for freestyle dancing when asked. We even got to see a performance, and only about half of them volunteered for the freestyle dancing, but his hand was up right from the beginning. So long as he remains this enthusiastic, we'll keep him in dance class.

He's also a bit of a ham and a storyteller (that's probably a bit of my DNA in there) so we hope to sign him up for some kind of drama class when we can find one that takes his age group.

Still, I'm not trying to set my heart on anything. If he changes interests and wants to do something else, then I will encourage him to do what he wants. I guess the only thing that I'll kind of push is for him to at least take interest in something, whatever that might be.

5. I have a hard time reading about or watching anything to do with kids being harmed. I think that's pretty self-explanatory.

6. He has a mischievous streak like his maternal grandfather, and he likes to make up stories like my dad. When asked what his favorite movie was at preschool, he said that it was Planet of the Apes. When asked about his favorite T-shirt, he said that it was his Green Lantern one. When asked about his favorite toy, it was his Batman action figure.

And yet he had never seen that movie, and he didn't own that shirt, and he doesn't have that toy. When we asked him why he told his teacher that, he just let out a big belly laugh. Kinda like Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood.

7. He's well-loved, and he knows that he is. I figure that's probably pretty important.

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