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Posts Tagged ‘fatherhood’

So, a number of conversations have taken place between my son and I in the last few weeks that I have been meeting to blog about.  However, in the interests of time, I have decided to focus on two moments that will go down in the Great Father/Son Moments Hall of Fame.

As I may have mentioned before, my son and I go camping every year in a place called Vedauwoo Campground just East of Laramie, Wyoming.  We have been doing it for five years now.  The thing I love about this tradition is it seems to be just as important to my son as it is to me.  I know this, because during extremely bad weather, I have given him the option of staying in a hotel instead, and every time he has requested to put up our tent come hell or high water.  One year, I really thought high water was going to be an issue.  This campground is famous for its bouldering.  We camp, usually make a campfire, make s’mores, then wake up in the morning, pick a boulder to climb and then climb it.  Once we reach the top, we take a picture of ourselves, and mission accomplished.

Woods Destination Climb 2012

Our Annual Vedauwoo Picture #5

This year, after climbing our boulder mountain we were discussing mountain lions.  We got on the subject of baby lions for some reason, and my son asked me how mountain lions were made.  Of course, I ask, you mean the species, or how do mountain lions mate?  He wanted to know about lion mating.  OK.

So, I briefly describe lion mating and think that is sufficient.  Then my son asks if that is the same way humans do it?  I tell him, “For the most part.”  And then I ask if he wants specific details about making a baby.  To my surprise, he says, yes.  I won’t go into the full details of the conversation that took place next, but I will say that it was very specific, using words like, erection, penis, vagina, ejaculation, sperm, orgasm, etc…  And my 12-year-old son listened intently to every word.  After I was done telling him about the birds and the bees, I asked if he had any questions.  He said no.  Then, after a pause, he said to me, “I think I won’t do any of that until I’m 27.”  And I said, “That is alright by me.”  And now that I have written this blog, I have the documentation to prove it.  Good times.

The second father/son moment actually occurred yesterday.  Brett is going to YMCA camp this Sunday.  One of the requirements of camp is that he has a doctor’s signature indicating that he is healthy enough for camp.  Unfortunately, because of time away to be with my father during his illness, I forgot all about this requirement.  I called his doctor to see if he would sign a form stating that my son is healthy.  He agreed.  Unfortunately, once they looked at his records, the time since his last appointment was too long, so, he would need a physical.  Unfortunately, his regular doctor did not have any appointments between yesterday and Sunday.  Luckily, the physician’s assistant was available and she (emphasis on the word, SHE) agreed to do the physical immediately.  We rushed to the doctor’s office to get my son his physical so that he could go to camp.

From the beginning, Brett was nervous.  He asked if he was going to get a shot, and I said no.  I just informed him that the doctor was just going to look at him and make sure that he is healthy and that it is a requirement to go to camp.  The nurse weighed him, measured his height, and took his blood pressure.  Once completed, she instructed my son to take off all of his clothes except his underwear and the doctor would be in shortly.  Immediately upon the nurse’s departure, he asked me if she was serious.  I said, “Yes.  Take everything off except your underwear. It will be OK.”  And then, what seemed like forever, (at least five minutes if it was a second), the doctor came in.  She introduced herself, and then proceeded to ask both Brett and me a series of health related questions.  This process took a good 15 minutes.  After we were done, she asked if we had any questions.  We both said no, but then there was a pause, and Brett said, “Actually, I do have one question.  Why did I have to answer all those questions in my underwear?”  Priceless.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  Excellent question and hilarious.

She told him he could put his shorts on until later.  I didn’t have the heart to warn him beforehand.  Looking back, I probably should have, but he was about to find out anyway.  Later, she asked him to take off his underwear and the look on his face was as if someone was going to shoot him.  He grimaced, closed his eyes and waited for torture to begin.  After a couple of “Turn and your head and coughs”, she was done, no hernia.  It was by far the worse part of the physical for him.  He got through it and now he is cleared for camp next week, but it was definitely some uncomfortable touching.  He might revise his earlier statement to waiting till 37.  I have a feeling he will feel differently about that soon enough.

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On the car ride home we talked about how uncool the experience was, and he was relieved to know that he would not have to do that again for a while.  I thought about telling him about what the doctor wants to do to me ever since I turned 40, but then I thought, “Why scar him for life?”  I’m just sayin’ …

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So, I am about to talk about something that many of you will disagree with, as a matter of fact, all of my readers may disagree with what I am about to say.  However, make no mistake, I am right, I am correct, and the rest of you are wrong.  You might even dislike me for the following words, but I am OK with that, because sometimes the truth hurts.

Yesterday, I spent about an hour at my son’s preschool graduation ceremony.  Guess what?  Preschool should NOT have a graduation ceremony.  What did he have to do to graduate?  Not pee in his pants?  Although it is awesome that he no longer pisses his pants, but diploma worthy?  I don’t think so.  How about coloring in between the lines?  Able to use a spoon and fork without assistance?  Oh, here is one, he grew.  That’s right, I present this diploma to you, my son, for growing.  Good job.

Do you know when a diploma is worthy?  When there is an actual chance that you may not succeed in earning one.  For example, not everyone graduates high school.  Not everyone has a bachelor’s degree.  I am on the edge with middle school, but I will allow it.  If you are reading this right now and you are a preschool dropout, my bad, but still, no diploma for you even if you decide to go back and work towards your missing credits in “Using the potty like a big boy 101”.  My older son verbally stated his disdain for such an event at dinner.  He was severely rebuked by his step-mom for such derogatory statements towards his brother’s moment, and rightfully so.  I will have to teach him how to support our family members and only speak poorly of their accomplishments in blog form.  And even then it is only OK when the family member can’t read, so I am OK.  Don’t worry, my oldest son will get to see the highlight reel when we rewatch the edited ceremony on DVD.  Editing provided by dad, cutting out the 50 minutes of useless drivel that I hat to sit through, but well within the fatherly duties.  To all of my buddies about to be dads in the near future, they didn’t put that in the daddy brochure, did they?  Welcome to a fraternity with very low standards and high expectations.

Was I happy for my son?  Of course I was and I hope my words made him feel very special, because he is special.  Was I proud?  Of course not!  Was I to be proud of his ability to sit in a chair, sing way too many stupid songs, and walk 10 feet to pick up a fake diploma without dropping it?  I just don’t get it.  Have we gone too far in the celebration of our kids and everything they do?  When does it end?  This is beyond everyone getting participation ribbons, this is raising the bar on mediocrity and everyone is a winner.

Also, the ceremony had a long-winded speech by the director.  Here is a little lesson for everyone that may one day be involved in planning a graduation ceremony.  Now, pay attention, and do not miss the following words.  NO ONE IS HERE FOR YOU!!!  Showcase my kid, and let me leave.  As a professor, I have been to my fair share of graduation ceremonies.  Here is what is necessary, 1. Welcome  2.  Thanks to Faculty and Staff  3.  Student Speaker (five-minute limit) 4.  An invited speaker, but only if the speaker is Oprah, a funny comedian like Chris Rock, the President of the United States, or a classical reading of ‘ Oh the Places You’ll Go’ by Dr. Seuss.  Otherwise, NO invited speaker.  No one cares. 5.  Reading of student names.  NOTE: If this process takes longer than 30 minutes, the graduating class should be divided up, period.  And that’s it, done.  I say the ceremony will last an hour, tops.  SIDE NOTE:  Did you know that I was the student speaker at my graduating ceremony?  True story.  I have no memory of what I talked about and that is how important it was.

Bottom line:  Preschool graduation is stupid.  There, I said it.  It’s not that my son does not deserve recognition, but it isn’t for attending a day care for four years.  You know what makes my son great?  He has no fear and will try anything and succeed in most things beyond his age.  He is well-behaved.  He has a personality that will OWN a room.  Have you ever been in a restaurant and seen everyone bend over backwards to please a four-year-old?  I have.  He will either grow up to be President or car salesman, right now it is a toss-up.  He is doing well with his numbers and letters.  He is kind and helpful.  His intelligence has no limit and he can hit a baseball two houses down.  I am willing to give him a medal in awesomeness, but as far as I am concern, he must wait until at least the end of 8th grade to get his first real diploma.

PS – If you will be attending a graduation ceremony in the near future, I dare you to tell me I am wrong about what needs and does not need to be in a graduation ceremony.

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I spent almost two hours watching a middle school talent show last week.  Again, not in the daddy brochure.  It was mostly brutal, but my son played violin in front of a crowd of about 200, maybe more.  He did great.  I could not be prouder of him and his accomplishment.  Forty-one kids tried out for the show, but only 17 were selected.  He was the best instrumentalist in the whole show.  Unfortunately, he did not win first place in the instrumental category.  Clearly, it’s all political.  I’m just sayin …

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So, I think being a father is hard.  I have been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to be a good father.   With my two youngest, I am SuperDad.  I just show up and they give me a smile as if I am the greatest thing since sliced bread.  My oldest son has higher requirements of greatness.  It makes me wonder what it takes to be a SuperDad, but more importantly, what does it take just to be a dad.  For example, is there a recipe for being a good father?  I would imagine it is similar to cake.

There are a couple of essential ingredients that are required to make a cake, and then the rest of the ingredients will just determine how good or bad the cake tastes.  Every cake needs, flour, sugar, butter and eggs. You don’t even need water to make a cake.  As a matter of fact, you don’t even need the flour, but unless you have a gluten allergy, no one should eat a flourlesscake.  It’s just wrong.  Bottom line, if you have these simple ingredients, a cake is what you will eat.

Many ingredients make a good cake

So here is my Essential Dad recipe:
1.  BE THERE:  The most important ingredient to being a dad is just showing up.  It is sad the number of dads that are not around for their kids.  I do not understand this.  I am part of my kids and they are part of me.  If I were to leave them, it would be like leaving my arm, or my leg.  A lot of people think all you need is sperm to be a dad.  This could not be farther from the truth.  Donating sperm is the easy part.  It’s like sticking your key into a car ignition, turning on the car, and saying, “Look at me!  I can drive.”  No you can’t.  So, a shout out to my dad, who in spite of divorce and not always living under the same roof as me or my brothers and sisters, he has always been there for support.  My oldest brother and sister and I do not share the same biological father, but my dad treated them as if they were his own.  Was he the perfect dad?  Of course not, but he had an abundance of this essential ingredient, he was and always will BE THERE.

2.  GOT YOUR BACK:  In my opinion, fathers should be the definition of “I got your back”.  There should be no greater safety than in the presence of your dad.  Just last Saturday I went on a 3-hour canoe trip and the boys came with me.  It was Isaac’s first time in a canoe.  It might have been his first time in a boat period.  We went on this trip with colleagues from work, and two people in particular, Bruce and Linda were an awesome help and support.  You see, Brett Jr. got in the boat first was going to sit at the front, and Isaac sat in the middle.  However, to Isaac, as we were about to push from shore, the boat rocked way too much for his taste, and he felt strongly that he was going to fall in the water.  With every sway of the boat his cried out, tears streaming down his fear-stricken face.  I thought for certain that we were going to have to go back to shore and forget about this trip down the river.  Bruce and Linda (in kayaks) straddled the boat to steady it, and they helped Isaac walk to the back of the boat to sit in between my legs.  It was better, but he was still afraid.  I could feel his whole body shiver as I started to row the boat forward.  He held tightly to my legs for the first 15 minutes.  I just said over and over again, “You are safe with me.  I WILL protect you.”  He would ask me, “Is the boat going to tip over Dad?”  “Not today” I said, “Not today.”  About an hour into the trip, Isaac found his courage and moved to the middle of the boat, and even helped row.  He was very proud of his rowing accomplishments, and so was I.  “Dad is going to keep me safe.” He said.  “You got that right buddy, you got that right.” I told him.  We survived the three-hour trip down the river and had a great time.  Upon putting Isaac to bed that night, he said, “I had a great time with you Dad.”  I said, “So did I buddy.”  It was a great day.

Man of many quotes.

3.  TEACH:  I sometimes struggle with this ingredient, and wondered if it was essential, but this may be the most important job of being a father.  Otherwise, as a father, what is my purpose?  So, I take teaching very seriously.  Unfortunately, as my oldest son gets older, I am discovering that I am becoming less intelligent.  As Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to  have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at  how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Although Brett Jr is a very compliant child, I am beginning to notice more and more that

Money or humor that enabled him to marry up?

he does not worship the ground that I walk on.  Luckily for me, I still have Isaac and Violet to remind me of how great I am.  I must cherish these years, for one day I am sure that Violet will bring a boy home one day that I will hate.  Is it too late for me to buy a shotgun?  Maybe I can convince her that dating is evil until age 30.  When I look at my daughter, I think about one of my favorite Chris Rock quotes, “Keep my baby off the pole!  I mean they don’t grade fathers but if your daughter is a stripper you fucked up.”

Well, that is my recipe for being a father.  Of course there is more, but I hope fathers every well include the basic ingredients.  Of course there is always icing, sprinkles, and decorations, like bike rides, canoe trips, camping, talks about life, golf lessons, playing catch, shooting baskets, wrestling, fishing, etc. etc. etc.

So many thanks to my dad for taking me fishing, teaching me how to use a hammer, providing me a foundation for my faith, and etc. etc. etc.  Essentially, the icing on the cake with lots of sprinkles.  Happy Father’s Day.

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It would simply be impossible for Superman to become a father unless he discovered a female Kryptonian on Earth or super heroine.  An Earth woman would not survive the process.  The problem?  One word: Orgasm.  Superman’s orgasm would kill Lois Lane.  I’m just sayin…

Marriage, maybe. Kids, no way.

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So, once again I am preempting my scheduled blog for a blog about my son and being a parent.

I am divorced.  My oldest son is almost 11 (October 24).  He has a three-year-old brother and a nine-week-old sister.  I am sure in his mind he had eight glorious years of being an only child.  Now despite having to share his home with two other young siblings, hs has always had the escape of visiting his mom on the weekends to have a place all to himself.

Yesterday, he received the news from his mom that she is going to have a baby, and he was not happy about the news.  Now, if you are an avid reader of this blog, I hope you have garnered that I take parenting seriously.  I am not a perfect parent, but I do the best I can.  I mention this because I have thought long and hard about the lessons that I must teach my children, more specifically, my son who is getting closer and closer to becoming a man.

As my son becomes more and more independent, I want to make sure that he has the tools to be prepared for what life will bring.  For example, we preach healthy eating in my house.  We know that he will be in many situations in which the food will be presented in large amounts with many unhealthy options.  My wife and I have had multiple conversations with him to talk about what it means to be healthy and hope that he will choose to make healthy choices whether we are there or not.

Last week we talked about tithing.  We talked about how we believe that all we have is a gift from God and He only asks for 10%.  Brett does not attend church with us, so we have made it a point to at least discuss some of the things that we feel are important in regards to our faith.  He has a lot for a 10-year-old, and we want him to not take it for granted and appreciate all that he has.  I also think it is a good lesson about finances, something that I think many of us were not taught by our parents.

So, when my son came home last night and made it very clear to me that he was not happy about his mom having a child, I knew it was time to have another talk, and this is what I said (Thanks to my friend, Doug, for his inspiration of this chat):

Isaac was in the stroller as Brett and I walked and talked around the neighborhood.  “Brett, first of all you are a great big brother.  You have handled the arrival of your brother and your sister very well.  You have done great.  And I know it is hard dealing with so much change, but you have done an excellent job.  What I want to talk to you about today is what it means to be us.  We are Woods men, and that has meaning.  I want to tell you about two things that I believe is something that we do.  One, we do our best in everything that we do.  Whether it is school, violin, football, or Taekwondo, we do our best.  That is why it is important to practice, read or study, we do our best.  Do you know what pride is?  Well, we have pride in everything that we do.”   And we talked about this for a while. 

“The second thing we do is we help people.  That is very important.  When we see people in need, we help them.”  Brett asked, “Just friends?”  “No, everyone.  We open up doors for people.  We help strangers in need if we can.  We help our friends.  And we especially help our family and that is why your job as big brother is so important.  You have been a great big brother to Isaac and Violet, and I know you will be a great big brother to your new brother or sister.  You will help your mom when she needs it, and you will do your best to make her happy, because that is what we do.”  We continued to talk, and he was surprisingly engaged in the conversation, adding his own comments and questions about things.  By the time we got back home, we had moved on to other things, such as Ben 10 Ultimate Alien.

So, I have been thinking, maybe that is our mission statement.  We do our best and we help others.  It makes me wonder if every family should have a mission statement.  It helps with family identity, unity, goals and understanding of who we are as people.  It might make it just a little easier for our children as they grow older having a clear understanding of what they are about.

You see, Brett was significantly more positive after our conversation.  I will never forget the moment and the power of talking and teaching your kids.  It is a conversation I will definitely have with Isaac and then one day with Violet.  I am sure it will be modified, but it will still be our Woods Mission Statement.  The cool thing is that Brett spent the next hour playing and talking with Isaac during dinner.  It was a lot of fun to watch.  Striving to improve and be better, that’s another thing Woods men do.  I’m just sayin …

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So, originally I was planning on posting on the hypocrisy of people wanting to modify the 14th amendment.  It is as hypocritical an idea I have ever heard and as far as I am concerned it is yet another veiled act of racism.  Although I wrote that post (coming soon), I was distracted by an idea I had about an experience I had at the gym involving very naked and very old men (also coming soon).  Unfortunately, I had an incident today that I feel compelled to talk about in this post.

As some of you may be aware, my son is taking football for the first time.  The coaches tell me he is doing great.  They have been extremely supportive and I have had great conversations with them and their insights to how they think they will use him in the game.  He is slated to play defensive line.

In the beginning, I don’t think he liked it because the first week was all conditioning, but whenever we talked about how he would hit people in the future, his eyes would light up and it was clear he was excited to play football.

Now don’t get me wrong, my son is awesome, but his interactions with the world and other people are not the same as other 10-year-olds.  It is for this reason that I worry about him constantly.  I worry that he will have difficulties making friends, understanding his teachers to be successful in school, and now being able to learn a game he has never played before with several coaches giving multiple instructions.  He is a big kid, and like most people who are especially big, tall, or strong, certain expectations/assumptions are made upon them.  Although he is large, he is also the sweetest, nicest, and most unassuming kid you will ever meet.  He is a pleasure to be around, and probably not a single aggressive bone in his body.  The funny thing is, I was the same way at his age, and I believe I am trying to fix MY “flaw” in him.  I stated in a previous post (Parenting: Raising Children in a Bubble) that “nothing will make you more angry than when your child does or experiences something that is a direct reflection of your own flaws.”  You see, my son did nothing wrong, yet I saw in him something that I wish I would’ve done when I was his age.  It was as if I could fix my flaws through him.

You may have kids and if you do, I’ll ask you this: What is your flaw that you try to fix in your kid(s)?  Maybe you think that if only your son/daughter would apply their God-given talents they would be more successful than you ever were.  Or maybe you wish your child wasn’t so lazy, because you know how lazy you were at their age.  Maybe your child gets too emotional, not emotional enough, no initiative, not prepared for the future, or dating the wrong guy or girl.  But I will ask you to seriously think about it.  Is the thing that annoys you the most, also your flaw?

If you don’t have kids, my guess is that the parent you have the most struggles with are most like you.  If you don’t believe me or you think that it isn’t true, just ask someone else.  For example, my father and I are very alike.  He has an annoying way of saying things to you that are not exactly kind.  They are often true, but it is in the tone that is truly irritating.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my father, and he is significantly more tolerable than he used to be (I think age does that), but he can get under my skin like no one on the planet.  And today, the tone I used with my son after his football practice was from page one of my father’s handbook.  It was like I was acting just like my father, something I promised I would not do, but it was like I was hovering over my body and it was channeling my dad’s tone.

I think we all struggle with our parent’s “mistakes”.  I have placed the word in quotes because I am no longer convinced they were mistakes, but consequences of being human.  My friend, Doug posted a comment (Don’t Have Kids … Please) that I believe states it best:  “But as Don Luis Miguel said in his book, “The Four Agreements,” we hear these things, make an agreement with it, and then later on spread this same negativity. Hopefully today for that mom, and in the future for that child, they begin to break that cycle by making new agreements. 1. Be impeccable with your word. 2. Don’t take things personally. 3. Don’t make assumptions. 4. Always do your best. I have had to work very hard at not doing some of the same things to my kids that my parents did to me. At the same time, I had to let go of resentments about those things and realize that my parents did what they were taught and did the best they could with what they knew.”

I don’t resent my parents.  I think they did a bang up job, but it does not mean that there aren’t cycles I would like to break.  At the end of my little tirade at my son today, I apologized.  He did not deserve my tone.  I told him how great I think he is and how his dad unfortunately gets carried away sometimes.  It was not my intention to make him feel bad.  At dinner I told him that I did not need to be at practice, and he could ask me when he felt he needed my help.  Before he went to bed he said he wanted me at practice, and I was very relieved.

I know I am not the best father in the world, but I hope I am the type of person that can learn from his mistakes and continually strive to be a better person.  I don’t know if I broke the cycle as my friend Doug discusses above, but I do know that I apologized to my son for a mistake that I made, and I am pretty sure that is different.  Maybe the cycle has been broken after all.

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My father is not perfect, but he has been supportive to all his kids and you will not find a more stable, supportive, give the shirt off his back, did the best he could father on the planet.  Not funny, but true.  I’m just sayin …

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