Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Warning to Blake

A child-related ritual began last night that's sure to repeat itself over the next decade. That is unless the PC Police get their way and redo February 14th as Platonic Friend and Non-Offensive Greeting Card Exchange day, but I digress. Because our daycare provider must have a thing for extreme sports, they decided to throw a Valentines Day party for ten two year olds. I'd rather take my chances with a creaky bridge in a third world country and a questionably-tied bungee cord around my ankles.

The wife insisted the kid and I ‘help’ with getting her cards ready for the party.

Her contribution was to put stickers on the cards.  My contribution was to remove the stickers from her mouth. The wife wrote nice things in her best girly handwriting.  Go team.
Ten kids, ten cards, ten bags of organic, sugar free fruit snacks, easy enough.  Each card got a sticker. That is, all but one. 

His name is Blake.  The name alone makes me cringe. Blake? In my mind I picture a beach-blonde surfer wannabe with the IQ of a conch shell standing at the front door with his hand-me-down Euro car leaking oil on my driveway. 

Blake’s card got three stickers.

“Whoa, Blake gets three stickers?”

“Who the hell is Blake?

“Blake’s cute, he shared his Teddy Grahams with her yesterday.” The wife chimes in.

Blake, if you’re reading this, listen up. I’m watching you. This is my daughter and I am that dad.  Before you get any crazy ideas and want to start sharing your monster trucks and making googly-eyes at naptime, just know you are going to have to get through me first.  So when you get this three-stickered Valentine’s Day card with the little monkeys on it, just say thanks and nothing more. Put your hands back in your little OshKoshes, go talk to someone else and take your long blonde hair with you. And this conversation never happened. M’kay?

In unrelated news, anyone want to sign my Platonic Friend Day petition?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It was just a game....

Last night it happened.  After thirty plus years of watching, cheering, praying, and loathing for my team, they did it.  They did the unthinkable, the unbelievable, the - I will never see that happen in my lifetime moment because it’s impossible - happened. This was not a good thing. 

                                                           sadly, this was not the game...

A better script for the agony of defeat could not have been written. If you would have seen this happen in a movie, you would cringe and remind yourself it’s not real. It’s just a movie, one that Quentin Tarantino would find a little too gory. But it wasn’t. It’s still too painful to recount the details but the plot was simple, yet cruel. The stakes could not have been higher.  Two centuries-long rivals square off. Your team is at home and starts off poorly only to regain momentum and take a large enough lead for most of the game the outcome seems in hand.  The crowd is electric, even the announcers seem to be on your side. But only then in the waning moments, a few bad breaks, a blown call and the stage is set for the unthinkable ending.

3…2…1…It goes in. We lose. 

For those who follow such things, it was the night of February 8th, 2012. I am a Carolina fan and I hate Duke.  My heart still feels like a half-eaten peach that’s been rolled across the floor of a public restroom. So yeah, I’m doing not so great today.
                                                   Nor was this the scene afterwards...

Please understand I’m no fair-weather fan. This fandom isn’t based on popularity, the color of the uniforms or they’re just the good guys in the rivalry against one of the most detested teams in all of sports (See #2).  I’m a fan because I went to school there. So did my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors.  It’s in my blood. Like a vampire, I’m stuck with it for eternity. It’s my existence and my curse.  One of my earliest memories in life is of my own blessed, loving mother cursing, cheering, and throwing toys at the television during a game. I watched, frozen with fear and intoxication over what could cause such passion. I was hooked.

I married outside my religion with my lovely wife, a mid-westerner from a school that’s mostly known for being just a good school, so the pious following of Carolina Basketball was a new and bewildering experience for her.  She took it well, even when a tough loss sends me stomping out the door to play in traffic or go virtually speechless for days.  Her birthday comes around this time and more than one romantic dinner has been spent in choppy silence as I mash my steak into a thousand pieces and swear the couple behind us is gloating over my loss.  So yeah, this game was kind of a big deal.

Two years ago, this sporting disaster sends me into fast-food-binging, hard-liquor-drinking, vow of silence funk of epic proportions, lasting  days, maybe weeks. Something probably gets broken and the dog chooses the crate over being in the same room with me.  I avoid anything with a screen or an internet connection to keep my eyes from having to relive this nightmare again. In the waning moments of last night’s game, as the tension in my chest built and the bile rose to the back of my mouth. I knew. This was going to end badly but a voice I had never heard before chimed me - it’s just a game dude.

My daughter is almost two.  We’ve already dressed her on more than one occasion in little Carolina fan outfits and temporary tattoos. The first thing I bought when I heard I got one past the goalie was a Onesie depicting Carolina’s greatness over its most hated rival.  I already dream of walking her around campus on her first visit, showing her my old dorm like my dad did with me. I picture us watching games together in the comingyears, cheering for the same team, sharing the excitement and nerves of an upcoming game.  Maybe one day she chooses another team and that’s okay. But for now, it’s her legacy too. And I know this dad-daughter bonding moment will be about much more than a rivalry or even sports. I’ve got a job to do. To teach her the lessons I want her to learn, to be the person I hope she will be, I will have to change.  

So last night I watched and I sat as all that is evil in the (sports) world celebrated while an icy hand reached deep inside and ripped out an unhealthy amount of soul. There were no tears. No slamming of doors or anxiety-ridden pets. I may have wandered the house in a stupor searching for something, anything to focus on other than this, but no ledges were mounted. They’re no empty vodka bottles this morning and I didn’t fall off the glue-sniffing wagon. (Kidding!  I’m a whiskey man.) I checked on our sleeping daughter, told her goodnight and went to bed.

Don’t get me wrong, today sucks. Like any loss, especially one to the team that shall not be mentioned, it’s been taken personally. I still have the painful residual feeling of rejection, like I was just dumped, on my birthday, for my best friend. But that little girl made me smile this morning and it made me forget about the game. 
Until I clicked ont he wrong website this morning. It’s fast food for lunch today, right after I cancel the cable.   


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Toddler Decathlon, Events 9 & 10. For the Gold...

The medal round of the Toddler Decathlon. This is it! What am I talking about? I explain here. Events 1-2, 3-5, 6-8.

Event – 9 The Stair Master
    Is there anything more problematic than a toddler and a set of stairs? We have a pseudo-two story home that unfortunately has stairs. I say unfortunately because she is evidently drawn to them like a moth to a bug zapper. If the wife and I can't hear and see her for more than 15 seconds, we know where to look. Yes, we have a gate but previously we could get away with leaving it cracked open to make a quick trip up or down and we're creatures of habit. Now, leave it open and you'll surely find a blur of a toddler shimming down the stairs like she's busting out of prison. Pick her up in mid flight and she screams like she's going back to solitary. The wife and I are wagering over whether this little gem of a habit or an errant kitchen knife left on the counter is the cause of our first emergency room visit. The decathletes will ascend a full flight of stairs and back down before being caught. ***For the safety of the athletes, only reverse or butt-crawls are acceptable.***

Event – 10 Changing Table Wrestling
    This is it. The gold medal event. Seemingly all she has learned and developed are now on display in this 3x2 foot terryclothed arena. What the Octagon is to MMA or the stage is to American Idol, the changing table is our Battle Royale. Win or go to bed angry.

We still use a changing table. I don't know what the appropriate age is to wean a kid off one but we're stuck with it until she figures out the big white bowl with water inside in the bathroom isn't just for washing your hands. Don't get me wrong, nine out of ten diaper changes go off without a hitch. After nearly two years, dad and daughter can go through the motions like a pit crew changing a tire. But that tenth time, look out. See that's the one with the exceptionally dirty diaper, the nap at daycare was cut way too short, and a triple-digit fever is brewing leaving you with a red-eyed angry toddler ready to buck like she's the bull in a rodeo. She's been training for this moment. Her brain gets that her legs can kick and her arms can reach things that allow her hands to grab and throw, all in a nanosecond. While you're reaching for the flung wipes on the floor she's already got her free hand in what was last night's fajita dinner with a side of raisins and is heading for your face. The look in her eye says she understands what she's doing too. Here, an easy bedtime routine can turn into a disaster. A get ready for school clothing change can turn into a sorry boss, I'm going to late today excuse #9847. For all the gold, the decathletes and their parent will attempt a dirty diaper change at 3:17 a.m., without the lights on. The new diaper application must take more than two minutes and with at least some smearing of something horrific on the table or changer. Bonus points given for every dry heave from the parent.
So these are the ten feats of strength my not-so-little-anymore baby girl is up to these days. Honestly it's been fun to watch and I will admit, I'm an encourager, the one to pick her up when she fails and say try it again. I can't wait to see what she does next but damn, is she growing way too fast. What worries me even more - what's next? How long do I have before back-talking, driving, texting, dating (dear God…)? But then I'm in training me too.