Tag Archives: son

Outside Week: Worry Wednesday

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Taking the kids outside of the house means exposing them to germs. Forget fresh air; people don’t cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze around town.

Since I can’t actually isolate my children, they do get sick. My son started getting a fever on Tuesday evening—101.4 going up to 102—which pretty much shut me down with worry for the rest of the night. Yes, despite me knowing that it’s not even that high of a fever.

It’s not so much worry as it is dread, I think. Author Orson Scott Card once wrote about dread: “It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not yet identified what it is. The fear that comes when you first realize that your spouse should have been home hours ago; when you hear a strange sound in the baby’s bedroom; when you realize that a window you are sure you closed is now open, the curtains billowing, and you’re alone in the house.”

(I’m pretty sure that’s what I remember reading from a story collection of his back in high school. I couldn’t find the quote firsthand, so I turned to the Internet for help and can’t vouch for its total accuracy. I mean, it seems fine, but often so do words of wisdom mistakenly attributed to Einstein and Lincoln.)

Anyway.

At bedtime, I read a story packed with similes to my girls, and we took turns practicing creating some of our own: “We are as cozy as … ”

“Mice!” my firstborn said.

“We’re as sleepy as … ”

“Mice!” she said again.

I then turned to specifics of our family, saying one girl was as sweet as … and the other was as fun as … . Then I threw out: “Your brother is as sick as … ”

“A sick baby!” my secondborn shouted.

While my firstborn said, “Cancer!”

The little dude’s fever was gone the next day, and I know modern medicine has relegated to folklore the idea of teething causing a temperature rise, but darned if he didn’t have a giant tooth sticking out of his gums where there was just a little sliver of white before.

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Outside Week: The Wall

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I had my son with me for a little while at work today, so when I got a break, I took him out to a large lawn on the other side of the parking lot from my office. I work underground—literally—so some fresh air and sunshine always sounds like a good idea after I’ve been staring at a screen for a couple of hours.

The lawn slopes a tad toward a large white-brick wall, on the other side of which is a jungle-like tangle of plants covering an even steeper slope that leads to a creek.

When I freed my boy from the carrier in which I’d imprisoned him, he ran a few delighted steps on the grass, then headed straight for the wall and tried to climb it.

It’s what I would have done at his age. It’s what I still do, in fact, when faced with similar surroundings.

But why?

My son had a football-field-sized swath of green (proportionally to him, anyway) on which to walk, run, roll, whatever. There were plenty of dead leaves to kick around and crunch, sticks for waving and poking into eyes and nostrils, and little green and white pellets that were probably fertilizer, but looked like candy. But despite this carpet of riches, he focused on the wall.

He’s a bit young for strategy, I think, so I ruled out any desire of his to take the high ground and thereby gain a tactical advantage over his enemies.

Then I had two simultaneous thoughts. Try to read the next two lines as one single, overlapping sentence, to best approximate what was going on inside my head:

It must be our nature to not be content with what we have, to ignore what’s in front of us while we try to escape to what we imagine must be something more and better despite not knowing what it is.

And:

I am amazed at humanity’s fearless urge to explore this world, to not be content with the known and the safe and the carefully manicured and curated, to strive despite ferocious odds against the barriers we see or sense but do not accept.

Yes, I’m that eloquent in my head, even on the fly.

The opposing feelings made me laugh (again, in my head—I probably looked like a crazy person to passersby). Something as simple as my son trying to scale a wall more than double his height made me at once frustrated and proud, for him and for all people.

There is a tension here, in this life. Even at our happiest, I believe, we are still, however slightly, yearning for something more. The Not Yet. We are still looking to what Aslan, in the Chronicles of Narnia books, would call “further up and further in.” To believe in God—the Christian God, anyway, as I do—is to embrace (or at least be OK with) paradox. This life is great, on the whole, but there’s still something on the other side of that wall. I can be happy and discontent, grateful and dissatisfied. Here and there. Or wanting to be in one. Or the other. Or both.

Faced with such mysteries unfolding unexpectedly in the middle of a workday, I scooped up my son, handed him a stick too long to cause any eye-gouging damage (on himself, anyway), and plunked him on top of the wall. He refused to even sit on it without me holding his shoulders or hips—at first. But he soon raised himself to standing, and, with my help, leaned out over the other side to poke at leaves and branches growing close enough for him to reach.

Then he took my hand and walked the length of the wall, never once looking down at the ground on either side.

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Toy Week: Freaky Friday: Not a Toy

Toy Week: Freaky Friday: Not a Toy

We’ve had a lot of fruit flies in our house this autumn, and a few weeks back, I wrote about my wife discovering the apparent source: a peach that had been overlooked for a week in my 6-year-old’s thought-to-have-been-empty snack bag.

We’ve nonetheless continued to battle the pests, and we’ve been swatting at regular houseflies, too, in numbers we’ve never previously seen. It’s not biblical plague proportions, but the bugs are certainly annoying. My 1-year-old son has started suddenly flinging one arm out like he’s snatching something out of the air—a move I thought was a random baby exercise until my wife pointed out: “Honey, he’s imitating you.” I do tend to grab angrily at passing insects.

A few days ago, my daughters were playing under our dining room table—a large, solid, wooden circle that’s at least 100, maybe 150 years old.

It’s got wooden wheels and a system for expanding, leaf by leaf by leaf by leaf, into a massive dining platform. There are nooks and crevices underneath to hide pegs and latches and all sorts of hand-carved and -forged details.

The girls were chatting and laughing and then went silent. Mostly silent. They started whispering and giggling in about an 80 percent attempt at being secretive / 20 percent attempt at catching my attention that they had a private joke.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

They erupted in guffaws.

“Girls? Girls … .”

I was sure they were up to no good, so I approached the table. One of them said, faux-guiltily, “We hid this.” A hand popped out from under the tablecloth, between two chairs, holding something oblong and black and—oh no.

“Is that a banana?”

More laughter. Harder laughter.

“How long has it been there?”

The reply was vague, which isn’t unexpected from kids who still occasionally mix up yesterday and tomorrow. I got the impression that the fruit had been there for more than several weeks. Months, maybe. My oldest daughter theorized that she had stuffed it there around when we first moved in—about three years ago. I know that’s impossible.

I took the thing—shriveled, hard, grotesque, like the body of some lost wanderer dredged up from a bog. A mummy.

“We don’t hide food,” I said, which was a false statement. We, as a family, hide food all the time. My son stores bread crusts, tortilla pieces, and cereal—pretty much anything on the grain tier of the food pyramid—between our futon and a recliner. Which puzzles me. We feed our kids well. We feed them often. But still I shove the vacuum attachment into the gap between the seats and listen as the diverse array of baked goods rattles up the hose and into the canister.

They can’t be storing away food for the leaner months. We don’t have leaner months.

My best guess is that it’s a game, with the food serving as just another toy. A perishable, fly-incubating toy. There were obvious signs that the hidden banana had been a popular spot, like a Make-Out Point for insects.

Some days, the dolls and blocks and games don’t cut it. That’s when the pots and pans come out. Or one girl slips her feet into my sandals and starts talking with as deep a voice as she can: “Hey, I’m Daddy.” Or, apparently, a lunch item is secreted away, like some disgusting parody of an Easter egg hunt.

I’m thankful for their ingenuity and imagination. But I prefer it when they choose to apply that creativity to stuff that doesn’t rot.

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My Son, Hugging Puppies

I’m trying something new today: posting video. Yes, that is my son. No, that is not a baby Cerberus he’s hugging.

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To the Rescue

To the Rescue

My son has two middle names.

One is Atticus, because we like the old-fashioned sound and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird is an awesome guy.

The other is Michael, because it’s a family name, and my wife’s uncle was an awesome guy. More than that, he was a hero.

Mike McGroarty worked for many years for the La Habra Fire Department, ending his time there with a seven-year stint as chief. Then he moved on to become deputy chief of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. He also helped lead the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, which sends animals into dangerous situations to seek out people in need of rescue.

Through his work, Uncle Mike saw things no person should ever have to see, but for him, it was just part of the job. He fought on the side of life, whether his opponent was destruction left by an earthquake or hurricane or rubble caused by an act of terror. He worked to rescue victims of the Oklahoma City Federal Building Bombing, and he coordinated California’s rescue efforts in New York after Sept. 11, 2001.

After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he continued to fight on the side of life, though this time that life was his own. Despite harboring a disease that constantly sought to break him down, he pushed for positive progress, and he maintained an attitude of success.

He died on June 7, 2010, never once backing down from his battle.

When my wife and I found out we were having a third baby, she confidently told me it was a boy (we didn’t know for sure until he arrived), and then, with realization dawning on her face, said his middle name would be Michael. (Atticus had been a contender for a first name that we ultimately didn’t choose, but the girls wouldn’t stop calling their baby brother by that one, so we tacked it on, too.)

Even though I felt in my gut that we were having a third girl, I agreed with her.

Now, I can’t wait for my son to get to an age where I can tell him about Uncle Mike, and show him photos, because here’s the other thing: Uncle Mike grew and maintained an amazing moustache. A handlebar moustache. A big moustache with waxed points that curled up at the ends.

I can’t think of a better Movember inspiration, since the month is all about growing moustaches and fighting prostate cancer. It’s like the effort was started with him in mind.

If you want to join me, Uncle Mike, my (clean-faced 1-year-old) son, and an amazing number of men and women around the country and world in raising awareness of and combating prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health issues—if you want to join us in fighting on the side of life—visit my Movember page and consider leaving a comment or making a donation.

You can also tell me about the heroes in your life, because I know you have them.

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Fright Week: Back Up, Mr. DeMille

Fright Week: Back Up, Mr. DeMille

I was up late last night playing Dungeons and Dragons (I’m just a level 2 bard, so don’t think I’m all hardcore or anything), so I decided to sleep in this morning.

Except, of course, I didn’t clear that with my son, who woke up at 6 and didn’t believe my wife and me when we told him it was still the middle of the night. It was dark out, so we thought we had a shot.

As the day brightened and the sun eventually came up, I realized that I neglected to post a pic of my freshly shaven face yesterday, the first of November/Movember. So here it is, freakishly close, to preserve some of the mystique of what I actually look like when I’m not a dimorphic-eyed doodle (for those of you who don’t know).

Wife, if you’re reading this, you can pretend I’m coming in for a kiss. Enjoy it while you can, as the stubble’s about to get painful.

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This is my baby

This is my baby

When my wife and I announced that we were having a third child, people would look at our two daughters and then ask me, “Are you hoping for your boy?”

The question annoyed me. It presumed so much: That I was dissatisfied with the girls. That a boy would somehow be more mine than my daughters are. That there’s a proprietary angle to our children. That dads need sons.

We chose to wait until we actually saw the baby to find out whether we were having a boy or girl, and I subsequently worried my way through the pregnancy.

Over the last several years, I’d developed a sense of myself as a good dad for daughters. I attended tea parties and gladly visited imaginary hair and beauty salons, all while championing my girls’ simultaneous desires to get muddy and rowdy, their dreams of being entomologists, and their rights to pursue whatever paths they chose, regardless of sex or gender. I proudly told people that they were the sorts of girls who liked putting on princess dresses before they climbed up on rocks and jumped off. I wrestle with them. I love camping with them. I enjoy the makeovers they give me.

I also not-so-secretly worried that I wouldn’t know what to do with a boy, protesting that I’m not an athlete, not a typical “guy”—to which my wife pointed out that I was being just a tad sexist. My firstborn, after all, shows all the signs of being competitive, physical, coordinated, and eager to take up sports, and I have no worries about my future interactions with her. I was also raised under a model of unconditional support; my rec-major dad and super-active mom—both of whom have participated in team and individual sports my whole life—never failed to attend one of my ballet recitals or musical theater performances. Of course I will make every effort to try to understand whatever activities any of my children choose to pick up.

And then he arrived. I was convinced we were having another girl. But here was this additional XY in the house, and I found myself quickly admitting that, yes, I’m glad I now have a son. Part of me feels guilty in such an admission—but my wife, correct as usual, points out that I can be happy with daughters and a son. For different reasons. And I am.

So I’m working on not being ashamed to say that I’m thrilled to have this little guy in my life, one who already likes to watch me shave. I’ll teach him how to do the same, someday—and he’ll need to do it often. I’ll teach him how to tie a tie, if that’s his style. I’ll teach him about healthy relationships, and respecting women, and masculinity that has a positive impact on society. I hope. I’ll try.

I call him Mr. Dude or Mr. Boy, and I have only recently admitted that I am glad that there’s another person in this family who will—I think, anyway—someday see the world from a similar perspective to mine.

I don’t know any of that for sure, but I do know that he is my boy—as much as my daughters are my girls. And that’s OK.

What do you think?

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