Thursday, February 28, 2013

Earrings 1, Dad 0

Earrings. Who knew such little things could cause so much trouble. And yet, they have.

In less than one week, my first born, my eldest daughter, my little girl will turn 10 years old. She wants nothing more in the world than to get her ears pierced.

Apparently, this is the age her mother got her own ears pierced, and what the two of them agreed is the allowable age for my daughter’s ears to get punctured and adorned. Here I thought we had agreed to 12, or even 18.  Rather, that’s what I wish we had agreed to.

Call me an oddball, a fashion-ignorant man in a world dominated by women (my world is, anyway). I just don’t get it.

I’m not judging. I know plenty of friends and relatives who got their baby’s ears pierced on the way home from the hospital. That’s their call, and frankly, I don’t even notice them.

But, with my little girls, I wanted them to wait.

Wait for what? Fair question.

I'd like to think my opinion is based on a general resistance to all the ways we tell our young daughters to become obsessed with their own beauty, to care about things like make-up and jewelry, and to succumb to all the pressure to be a real-life princess.

Maybe I had one too many sociology classes as an undergraduate. Maybe that darned liberal arts education made me question all the societal conventions that get forced on us from every direction, dictating our gender-specific roles, setting us on our pre-ordained paths, and molding us until we are American-Idol-watching, new-sneaker-buying, credit-card-using drones. Deep breath.

Maybe now that I’m a dad with three young daughters – and one son – I see it ever more clearly. Sure they come out a bit different – boys and girls. I never saw a 10-month-old throw a ball across a room until our boy did. But how much of the difference do we as a society force on them?

I remember the first bike we bought for our eldest. We had to choose between the black bikes with the Incredible Hulk and Spiderman on them, and the pink bikes with Barbie and Cinderella. Everything, from the moment they come out is divided into pinks and blues. Pink knit hats in the hospitals, blue swaddling clothes on the way home. Try to find green PJs for a baby. It's almost impossible. And that’s just the start. For goodness sake, even Legos are divided into boy Legos and girl Legos these days.

One of many Super Girls in our house.
And it comes at you from all directions. The other day, our younger daughter’s pre-school was having a dress-up day. Kids were told to come as Princesses or Super Heroes. It sounds innocent enough, until you think about it. We were so proud when our daughter decided on her own to go as Super Girl.

It makes sense. My wife comes from a family of strong, accomplished women. (Scottish too, so watch out). We’ve raised our daughters to be strong and confident, to know their worth, and to know they can do anything. We’ve taught them that they are smart, and capable, and so much more than just beautiful. 

Maybe that’s why the earrings are sticking in my craw so bad. Maybe I see it as a setback in our battle against a society that is pushing my girls to be a certain thing, to act a certain way. Maybe.

Or maybe I just don’t want to see my little girl grow up so fast. Maybe there are all these milestones in a kid’s life, from getting on the kindergarten bus for the first time to being dropped off at college, that are going to happen and there’s no way to slow them down. Our kids are going to grow up and get bigger and will even become adults someday. It can't be stopped. 

But this one can be. This one is on us.  

I know there are older parents with older kids who may read this and say, “Dude, really, it’s just earrings.” And they are right. They are just earrings.

Besides, Wonder Woman wears earrings and she's a super hero.

And in a few days, it’s going to happen. I will keep telling myself, it’s just earrings. And hopefully, in a few weeks, I won’t even notice them.

Like the article?  Here's others you may enjoy. Learning Lessons from a Little Boy, Tip of the Hat to Single Parents, and Thanks to My Backup, and New Year, Few Expectations

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What's Winter Break Without Smores?

Some lessons in life just have to be learned first-hand.  Like this one: It is never a good idea to use your gas stove top to toast marshmallows.

I know, it makes so much sense when you see it on paper.  But when the request comes out of the mouth of a five-year old -- “Can we toast marshmallows on the stove?” -- it sounds so darn cute and safe, how could anyone resist.

I think this requires a backstory.  So, here goes.

When I forcibly moved my wife from Washington, D.C., to Upstate New York eight years ago to be closer to my family, she agreed upon two conditions.   First, she wanted a new kitchen in the house we chose to buy.  Second, she made me swear that each winter we would take a trip to some place warm.  Florida, possibly. 

Eight years in, I am batting .500.  Wait … that math is wrong.  Yes, we got a new kitchen.  But, in those 8 years we have never been to Florida during the depths of winter.  That means I am really batting 1 for 9, or a lowly .111.

And each February break, my beloved wife reminds me of my winter vacation futility with the simple phrase: “You promised.”

In my defense, the mid-winter trip has yet to happen for good reason.  For the first few years, work just didn’t allow it.  There were also a few pregnant years thrown in, too.  And then, well, we ran out of money.  Now, I mean, who really wants to go on vacation with four screaming kids anyway.

Let’s just say, it just hasn’t worked out like we planned. 

Not our best parenting moment, but a memorable one
And thus, we have spent each February break since we moved to Upstate New York at our home, with our children, counting the days.

This year, to make things more bearable, we decided to liven up our annual staycation with a bit of hijinks.  We decided to pitch a tent in the living room and spend the night under the … well, under the living room ceiling.  And so we did. 

The kids loved it.  They loved it even more than the few times we’ve actually been camping.

It was all fine and good until someone came up with the bright idea of toasting marshmallows on the gas stove.  I mean, nobody got burned.  So, in that sense, it was a success. 

But we had several instances where the fire extinguisher’s trigger was mere seconds from being pulled. Then there were the bits of smoldering, dripping, black marshmallow all over the stove.  And let’s not forget that the final toasted marshmallow creations tasted, in a word, like “gas.”

The consensus is that next February, once the tent is set up, we’ll have to make a small fire in the living room … or we could just go to Florida.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Two-asouraus Rex

When you take a two-year-old boy to church, you fully expect you’ll be forced to take him outside at some point to stop him from disturbing the pious masses. Most dads relish the chance. 

But the opposite is expected when you take that same child to a world-renowned honkytonk, biker bar and barbeque joint. If anything, a better guess is that you’ll have to take said child outside to protect him from the hijinks inside the bar. Clearly, nothing he could do would possibly disturb such a rowdy, boisterous and well-tattooed crowd.

And yet, today, I found myself in the vestibule of the Dinosaur Barbeque pleading with my two-year-old to stop crying so the bikers and biker-wannabes inside could enjoy their well-smoke animal parts in peace. 

He was having none of it. He wanted a chocolate milk and he wanted it yesterday. That the waitress knew of his need and was working diligently to locate and mix the milk and the chocolate didn’t matter. Chocolate Milk! Chocolate Milk! Was all he could think to scream.

Is your two-year-old too rowdy for famed biker bar?
Yes.  Yes he is.
Of course, once the chocolate milk found its way to the table and the straw into his mouth, he stopped crying. And the bulky, leather-clad patrons went back to picking the meat out of their teeth with rib bones and chasing it down with pints.

That is until the boy found a more creative way to disturb all those within smelling distance of his bottom. Who ordered the number 2. Nobody did, that’s who.

And, as planned, his diaper bag was left in the car. So, it was back through the vestibule and out to the van with him, where I did a front seat diaper change. 

I felt worst for the scores of people outside waiting for a table -- our impromptu changing station within plain view of them all. I’m sure each one of them was glad when I got him cleaned up, re-diapered and back inside.

Once our food arrived, it occupied the boy for all of two minutes – which apparently is just enough time for me to scarf down a traditional combo platter.

With the boy’s fries gone, however, he was simply done with the place. He displayed his opinion by throwing gloves and socks at other customers and saying “go home” repeatedly. And, just like at church, I was forced to take him outside again to wait for the rest of the family to finish service. 

Sometimes, it might just be easier to eat at home. Take out, anyone?