Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ramblings of an Insomniac

It’s 4:15 in the morning.  I’ve been awake for over an hour and I'm not sure why.  I suspect it might have something to do with my pregnant wife’s tossing and turning as well as the dogs snoring in the floor, but who knows.

I’ve been thinking about a blog post for a couple of weeks now.  Ever since fathers day.  It is somewhat of a surreal experience for me, fathers day.  I have my own day.  Not like a birthday, it’s completely different than that.  What is it like.  Well, I struggle to explain that.  I’m sure it is different for every dad out there, and I am supremely confident that my perspective varies drastically from the norm.

I was the youngest member of my immediate family and not far from the youngest of my extended family.  Needless to say, my experience with children was very limited.  I was never comfortable around kids, some would argue that is still the case.  I always imagined getting married and having children, but I didn’t have any frame of reference as to what that would be like.  As a result, the last three years of my life have been a mix of emotions and new experiences.

Even today when I sit and think about the fact that I am a father, it is a difficult concept for me to grasp.  Yes, I have this little creature running around the house calling me daddy but honestly, I don’t feel that much different.  I guess I had some preconceived notion that everything about your life would change when you had children.  Please don’t get me wrong, THINGS CHANGE.  The days of packing a bag and getting away for a weekend are no longer as simple.  Heading off to the lake for a day on the boat is infinitely more work than it used to be.  Let’s not even talk about jumping on a plane and leaving the country, it’s just not feasible any more.  At least it’s not feasible for a raging perfectionist like myself.  However, my identity and internal view of myself has largely remained unchanged. 

My father, from my point of view, was rather strict.  Not overbearing, but he expected things of my brother and I that, at the time, seemed unreasonable and harsh.  I never resented my father for this, but I can say I wished he would lighten up from time to time.  That seemed to happen as I went off to college and definitely was noticeable after I was out on my own making my way.  I didn’t understand why at the time, but it is becoming very clear to me at this point.  I will say this about parenthood, it certainly changes your perspective about your parents, as I’m sure my brother and I did with my father.  When I think about it from my fathers perspective, I’m sure he thought he was being easy on us.  He was raised in a generation where children were only to speak if spoken to.  So while our perspective about our parents change, it is clear that doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to do everything exactly like they did.  Does that mean each generation is somehow better than the previous at guiding our children through life.  Definitely not.  Lord knows I have made countless mistakes with my daughter, and I’m sure there will be many more to come.  It is certain to me however, that the way we raise our children is heavily influenced by our upbringing and I am extremely thankful for mine.  There are far too many people out there who do not have a strong base to draw on for guidance in their parenting skills.  Just read the paper or watch the news to see the atrocities that are committed against children.  And the heartbreaking thing is, it is a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.

I love my daughter.  I know for a fact there are now words to explain how much.  It is gut wrenching love.  I can not imagine my life without her.  I can not even begin to fathom how people feel who loose a child.  When I think about what my mother felt the day my brother was killed in a car wreck, it is almost unbearable for me.  I never knew that I could love one person so much.  That, if nothing else, is the one thing about parenthood hat did not surprise me.  You always hear this from parents, but it is impossible to fully understand until you have them yourself.  I know that is a raging cliché but I don’t know how else to say it.

That being said, sometimes you need a break.  You know, from time to time, you kind of miss those days without children.  I used to think this made me a terrible father and there must be something wrong with me.  I have been able to tell myself recently that this is not the case.  I certainly hope I’m not just justifying my feelings somehow.  No one wants to be a bad parent. 

We were in the car the other day and Cinderella was whining incessantly about needing to go potty.  We were on the turnpike and we couldn’t stop so we explained to her that she would just have to hold it for a few minutes until we could get to a bathroom.  Let me say briefly, logic and reason do not work with a 3 year old.  After about 15 minutes on non stop whining, her mother snapped.  There was a stern reprimand and threat of not very nice things if the WHINING DID NOT STOP.  Things were very quite for just a few seconds and from the back seat came these words…

“You guys aren’t being very nice!”

This is one of those moments when you want to laugh but that’s just not possible.  You have to be resolute and know that what you are telling her is best.  You don’t want her to stop whining just for your benefit, well maybe a little, but for her benefit later in life.  It’s not like you can whine to your boss and get what you want at work.  I wish.

So a couple of weeks ago on fathers day, I started thinking about what I thought it was going to be like to be a father versus the reality of the situation.  In reality, it is better than I ever thought it would be.  My identity as a person is the same.  I still feel like me, like I always have.  I don’t know exactly why I thought that would change but I’m thankful it hasn’t.  Now I have this little miracle running around my house who I love more than anything.  Does she frustrate me from time to time?  That is quite possibly the understatement of the century.  But in the grand scheme of things, it is all worth it.

I picked up Cinderella from day care on the Friday before fathers day.  She greets me as I walk through the door, more excited than usual.  She takes me by the hand and leads me over to her cubby, excitedly rambling something about a card.  She had made me a card for fathers day and was so excited to give it to me she could barely talk.  I opened the card and it was about what you would expect from a three year old.  Some stickers and other scribbles on a folded sheet of paper.   The look on her face was pure elation.  She couldn’t have been more proud of the card that she had made for her daddy and I couldn’t have been more proud of her. 

We came home and went through our normal routine then it was off to bed.  The next morning at 6:15, she is in our bedroom, ready for the day.  She is always much more excited about 6:15 than we are.  In an effort to squeeze a few more minutes of bed time in, we allow her to climb in bed with us.  Sometimes she is still for a few minutes, other times not so much.  Today, not so much. 

She enthusiastically tells me “HAPPY FATHERS DAY!” 

“That’s not until tomorrow sweetie.”

Then she does something completely unexpected.  She wraps her arms around my neck and gives me a big “squeezy hug” and says…

“But I love you SO much daddy.”


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lions and Tigers and…..I hate the circus!

I should warn everyone right now that this blog post is difficult for me to write on so many levels.  Just thinking about the topic makes me nervous, jittery and generally uneasy.  I think the title should set it up quite nicely.  Let me be clear this post is told from my perspective.  I can’t quite understand why but for some unknown reason, not everyone in my household maintains the same opinion as the one I am about to express.

It all started several months ago when it was announced the Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey circus would be coming to town.  My wife had never been and was sure that the 3 year old would LOVE to see the spectacle.  She knew at that time my distaste for all things circus but bought me a ticket anyway.  Gee thanks.  Fast forward to last weekend.

The day was here and we were off to the event.  We could barely get Cinderella to take a nap she was so excited.  She knew there would be Elephants, Lions and popcorn.  She was in!  Earlier in the week she had announced to her mother and I that she was going to the circus to see the FLAMINGOS!?!?  I didn’t really have the heart to tell her so we just agreed and went on.

I had been dreading the day for months.  Now it was here.  It was in the afternoon so I had all day to fester.  That’s always a good thing.  We stop at the ATM and get some cash and grab a bite to eat before we head to the venue.  Given my queasiness that was probably not a great idea.  Oh well.

We arrive in downtown Tulsa and park the car.  Walking in to the BOK Center I am already getting nervous.  As soon as we get out of the parking garage you can hear some carney on a bull horn.  Not real sure what he is saying but he seems to be very passionate about it.  Whatever it is I’m sure it was about $20.  More on that later.

We manage to avoid the first wave of empty your wallet attacks but as soon as we’re in the door the lemonade stand proves to be too much for both my wife and daughter. 

“I’ll take two lemonades please.”

“That will be $18 sir.”

It’s a damn good thing they didn’t have a tip jar out.  I might have lost it.  Shell shocked and a bit shaken, we proceed to our seats.  That was no small feat in and of itself.  There are these little booths EVERYWHERE.  They have spinny lighty things, cotton candy, stuffed animals, roasted nuts, snow cones, popcorn…the list goes on and on.  To a three year old it’s like they’ve died and gone to heaven.  They want one of everything.  We managed to shuffle her quickly past all the little traps and arrived at our seats.  Whew, we made it, all that is behind us. 


Here come the people up and down the isles with the same wears as were in the lobby.  Yelling at your child to let them know what they have to offer.  Case in point, the snow cone dude shows up.  Cinderella immediately focuses on him like a hawk stalking a mouse. 

“I want one daddy.” 

“Fine, One snow cone please.”

“That will be $9”

“Those are made of ice and some flavoring right?”

“Yes sir, but you get the elephant mug you can take home with you.”

I’m still trying to decide if that was supposed to be good news but I shell out the ridiculous money and hand the treat to my daughter.  She takes the spoon and tries to take a bite and it is frozen almost solid.  I spend the next 20 minutes trying to chip away at the block of ice in the collectors edition mug so my precious angel can enjoy a snow cone.

Would you listen to me?  I’m becoming my father.  Oh dear.  Was he like this at my age or am I on some accelerated path  to un-cool daddyhood?  Maybe that just means I’ll mellow sooner. 

It’s time for the show to start.  Oh boy.

As expected about 400 clowns pour into the arena and begin their usual slapstick comedy routines that are supposed to amaze and entertain.  Time for a side discussion.

I don’t like clowns.  Haven’t liked them ever since I can remember.  I think it probably had something to do with a big brother perpetuating the fear.  Not only did I not like them but my brother kept this velvety looking clown painting hanging above his bed for YEARS.  I think he did it to keep me out of his room but it gave me the heeby jeebs.  It just seems like they are always up to no good.  Like they’re about to rob you or something.  The release of the move IT at the ripe age of 14 didn’t help to calm my irrational fear of clowns.  Thank you Stephen King.

Back to the circus.  In addition to not liking clowns I also don’t particularly care for the type of physical comedy routines that most clowns employ.  You know, pulling chairs out from each other, etc.  There is a lot of that going on.  Cinderella looks at me and says.

“Daddy, I don’t like clowns.”

“Atta girl.  It’s never too early to have an irrational fear.”

Then the head clown comes out.  The MC of the show and begins his spiel professing this as the “Greatest Show On Earth.”  Well, that’s a bit lofty don’t you think?  Maybe in 1860.  Whatever, I’m going to try and enjoy this.

We get all the clown antics out of the way and the show begins, there are horses that prance around in unison, dog tricks, elephants parading, canons firing; you know, all the usual circus stuff.  Even the things that make me cringe.  Trapeze acts and the high wire.   Especially the high wire.  Why anyone in their right minds would choose this lunacy as their career is beyond me.  Just watching the event makes me squirm in my seat.  Heck, I’m finding it difficult to type right now just thinking about it.

That brings me to another point.  Who are these people?  Who joins the proverbial circus.  How many people have you heard say “I want to be in the circus” when asked what they want to be when they grow up.  I bet you can count them on one hand if you can count any.  I bet there were 200 people in the performance alone.   I found myself trying to figure out what drew each of them to the circus.

Intermission arrives and I’m relieved we are going to have a break from the craziness.  But here come the vendors again.  This time the three year old locks on to the popcorn guy.  I can go for that.  I eat popcorn almost every night, or so it seems.  Small box, $7.  Look on my face, probably priceless.  I swear to you I have been to strip clubs that cost me less.

The second half of the show spins up and I realize that I am missing about half of everything that is going on.   There is no telling what I missed in the first half.  It’s the proverbial 3 ring circus in there.  And there is something different going on in each ring.  That’s just too much.  I can’t multi task like that.  It’s sensory overload.  Not knowing what I missed is now bugging the hell out of me to the point I can’t even focus on what’s going on.  I just eat some popcorn and watch the 3 year old.  That’s probably more entertaining than the actual show.  She has these wide eyes and she’s eating the popcorn like a zombie without removing her gaze from the show.  Music comes on and she dances.  That’s always entertaining.  The popcorn box proves to be too much for her to deal with so she hands it to me to hold.  But I can’t just hold it, I have to hold it with the opening facing her so she has easy access to the contents.  And she makes it very clear she isn’t sharing.

The show ends and I am relieved.  That is behind me.  Then it dawns on me that we have to run the gauntlet again.  All those booths outside are still whirring and spinning.  It’s not like going to the movies or something.  Oh no.  They get you coming and going.  One of the acts in the show were the lions, so naturally Cinderella HAD to have a stuffed lion.  $20 and we are headed for the door before she looses interest and decides she needs something else.  We battle our way out the door and make it to the car without incident.  Just listen to the silence. 

Wow…That’s nice.

Um. That was unexpected.

Today has been one of those days.  Yesterday evening around bedtime we discovered Cinderella had a fever.  Great.  I stay home with her today because we, unlike many parents at daycare, actually keep our child home when she’s sick.  Ok, enough of my soap box. 

This evening, Jayna had an appointment to get her hair fixed.  She leaves at 6:30 and I’m left to handle dinner, bath, books and bedtime.  Not a problem.  We go through the first half of the night night routine and sit down to read our books.  For some reason the dogs are barking in the back yard.  Now, this isn’t overly unusual, our dogs are obnoxious.  Tonight was different.  They weren’t stopping.  And the primary barker was Beau.  Beau is the fat, lazy and normally docile one that rarely barks.  Most of the time he just stands there and stares at stuff.  Not tonight, he was barking like he was defending his food bowl or something.  I couldn’t hear Bailey barking at all.  That’s even stranger, she will typically bark at a stiff breeze. 

Ok, books are read, daughter is tucked in and the freakin dogs are still barking.  I storm down the stairs and look out the back door to see nothing but Beau’s butt sticking up from under the fence.  Bailey is sitting behind him observing the ridiculousness of it all.  I walk out the back door and divert the attention of Beau briefly.  He has apparently been attempting to escape Attica or something because there is a mud hole next to the fence and Beau is covered from head to toe in mud.  Nice.

I go over to the fence to get a closer look at the carnage and I can see the edge of a turtle shell.  Of course.  Beau was attempting to eat a turtle.  And I might add, in doing so, has wrecked my well groomed back yard. 

The turtle in question appears to be wedged under the fence.  The house next to us is brand new and just had sod installed.  He was wedged between the sod and the fence and had slid slightly under the fence.  I reached down to push the turtle up out of the hole he was in, hoping he would just continue on his merry way and we could be done with all this commotion.  When I started to push on the shell the turtle jerked and kind of hissed.  Wait a minute.  I know that sound.  I have certainly never heard a terrapin make that noise.  I take a closer look and sure enough, there is that long rat like tail that tapers down to a point.  That’s about all I could see but that was all I needed to see.  What the hell is a snapping turtle doing in my back yard in suburban Tulsa?

For those of you that know me well, you know I grew up in and/or around the country.  I spent many an hour at farm ponds.  I’ve seen snapping turtles.  I’ve harassed snapping turtles just to see them get angry.  However, I have lived in Tulsa for over 10 years now I can’t say I’ve seen a snapping turtle during that entire time outside of the zoo. 

If you’ve never had an experience with a snapping turtle, they’re not like you average turtle.  They’re FAST, their neck is LONG and their bites HURT.  I decided that poking this turtle from the other side of the fence where I couldn’t see anything was probably a bad idea.  I go to the garage and fetch a rake and head to the neighbors yard.  I peel back the sod because the turtle is completely covered by the sod.  As soon as I peel back the grass the turtle starts hissing at me.  Wow, this is a particularly angry fella.  I decide it’s a good thing I brought the rake, maybe I should use it.  I hook the back of the shell with the rake and he immediately latches on to the rake and doesn’t let go.  I lift him out of the hole between our yards and swing him over to the middle of the yard.  It takes me a second to get him to let the rake go and he continues to hiss at me.  I walk around the corner of the house and keep an eye on him for a minute.  He finally calms down and wanders off.

I spend the next half an hour washing the dogs and trying to cover the gaping hole in the back yard with something until I can get some dirt to fill in.

I swear this stuff only happens to me.  Really?  A snapping turtle?