Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Being a Father

I woke up on Father's Day to the sound of my wife yelling at me.

Well, she wasn't actually yelling at me. She was yelling for me. They had let me sleep in, and The Wife was sitting on the love seat, playing on the laptop computer. And then, four-year-old Roni walked up to her, gave a little cough, and puked all over her, the laptop, the love seat, and the floor.

That's when the yelling started. I came stumbling around the corner, half asleep. The Wife gave me a choice: I could take Roni and clean her up, or I could clean up the laptop, the love seat, and the floor. Not being stupid, I chose Roni. I wiped a little bit of barf off of her nightgown, then threw her into the tub. Meanwhile, The Wife was stuck cleaning the vomit off of herself and everything else. (Unfortunately, we have since found that laptop computers don't take well to high volumes of vomit in their keyboards.)

The Wife then spent much of the rest of the day apologizing to me for making me clean Roni up on Father's Day. ("It's Father's Day. You shouldn't have to do that.") The Wife is sweet. First of all, she did the vast majority of the cleanup. Second of all, I wasn't the one who was vomited on. And thirdly, what kind of father would I be if I didn't help clean up my daughter's barf, Father's Day or not?

Being a father certainly has its ups and downs. For every new word learned or unexpected hug, there is a puke clean up or diaper poop-through. The key is that the highs are definitely worth wading through the lows.

I find myself really enjoying the times the kids surprise me. Years ago, my brother started a little family tradition. When riding in a car with my sister's kids, he would tell them they needed to duck whenever they went under a bridge so they wouldn't hit their head. Being naive, gullible children of the 80s, they believed him, and would duck whenever they went under a bridge.

A few years later, my brother had his own kids. They were hardened, cynical children of the 90s, and when they were told to duck when going under a bridge, they balked and (rightfully) said they were in no danger of hitting their heads.

So, the other day, I decided to pass this little family tradition on to my own kids. As I was taking the kids to the library for story time, we had to go under the freeway. I said, "We're going under a bridge. You have to duck so you won't hit your head." My kids, being free thinking kids of the 21st Century, heard the word "duck" and started to quack.

"Quack, quack, quack!" they said.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
Roni answered, "There's a duck under the bridge. Quack! Quack!" Buzz then joined in with several "quacks" of his own.

And since that day, whenever we go under a bridge, either one of them might just start randomly quacking. And every time they do, I shake my head and smile. (I love it when they make me smile.)

I like to think I'm a good father. I do at least some of everything that needs to be done for the kids. I feed them. I change diapers. I bathe them. I do their laundry. I take them to story time at the library. (I'm usually the only father there.) I read to them. I read with them. I play toys with them. I clean up after them. Could I do all of those things better? Of course I could. But I try hard, and do a pretty good job.

But, there's one thing I don't do. I can't do my daughter's hair. Oh, I'll bathe her, wash her hair, and comb her hair, but I just can't seem to fix her hair. The problem is, doing a little girl's hair involves putting rubber bands into her hair.

I've been shown how to do this several times by The Wife and her sister. They make it look easy. All you have to do is twist the rubber band around three or four times and put Roni's hair through it. It sounds simple. It looks simple. Unfortunately, the little rubber band starts at about a quarter of the size of a dime. (That's very small.) And then I'm expected to twist this little thing over around on itself three or four times with my large, sausage fingers? I don't think so!

And even if I manage to get the rubber band twisted, I still have to put it in her hair. I'm sorry, but I always try to not hurt my daughter. Pulling her hair to put a rubber band in it just seems mean. So, it's pretty easy to tell the days that I am in charge. They are the days that Roni looks like a ragamuffin. (It makes me appreciate Buzz that much more. Boy hair is easy.)

In conclusion, I wouldn't give up being a dad for anything in the world. It's never going to be easy. There are always going to be surprises, whether they be bad (puke on a laptop) or good (quacking under a bridge). I just have to keep trying my best to do all I can to help them grow to become good people. (And hope that someday Roni will forgive me when she looks back at pictures from this time-frame and sees that I let her out of the house with her hair looking like that.)

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