The Quiet Epiphanies of Parenting

There are slender instances that occur to you as a parent that serve as the quietest of all epiphanies.  I say quiet, because for the most part they are the kinds of experiences that you wouldn’t dare share with others.  While we all have them, at least I assume I am not alone here, we suffer in silence afraid that any admission of being anything less than a super parent would shatter the image we try so hard to portray in the public eye, especially those of us who live in small towns.

Despite our futile attempts to fool the world, we all have these moments.  I know this because we are human and by our very nature we are fallible.   Prone to fits of frustration, comical delusions of grandeur, and even the occasional third glass of wine that acts as a time machine to our early twenties before the desperate fog of responsibility rolled over our modest suburban homes.  Still holding tight to that ugly lie that leads us all to believe that parenthood comes with an elixir for instant maturity?  OK, fair enough.  But humor me here.  Ask yourself this one question.  Does this sentence sound familiar? “But they are all going out for more drinks and we hardly ever get out of the house!”  Yeah, I thought so.  Don’t worry, it only means you’re human.  Anyways, your more practical, less mature side gave in two hundred words ago.

Now that we’ve worn away the shiny veneer of omnipotence from our parenting costumes, I’d like to share one of the more perplexing epiphanies I’ve had during my eight years as a father.  This past Spring my two children who are able to walk upright started to take notice of the basketball hoop in our driveway.   This illumination wasn’t overly surprising when it came to my son; after all he had been asking about it since Christmas.  But when my eight year old daughter, who is more of a dancing queen than jump shot princess, asked to play as well a faint feeling of incredulous joy careened through my mind.

When the next nice day arrived my upright walkers and I sauntered out to the driveway for what I assumed would be a short round of hoops.    Despite my son’s enthusiasm, he is barely over two years old. Truthfully anything more than him chewing on the basketball would have been impressive to me.  As for my daughter, I’d be lucky if her first inclination wasn’t to ask me for a lift in the air to be closer to the rim.   Now that I have a chance to read my thoughts on paper, I realize that I seem harsh, but like I said I am human and therefore prone to fallibility.

As expected my son grabbed one of the two available basketballs and began to run around like a person made of honey being chased by bees and cartoon bears.    At first I thought he had somehow set himself on fire, but I soon realized that his frantic way of sprinting was god given and I could put the pail of water down.   With the brief moment of mania behind me I shifted my focus to my eight year old who had spared no time in getting down to work.   To my surprise she was doing well, in fact she was doing more than well.  She had hit three out of her first four shots!

“You’re even using the glass!” I said in amazement.

“What does that even mean daddy?” She asked

“Well you’re using the backboard sweetheart.”

“OK, but I don’t know what that is.” She said continuing to shoot.

Watching her succeed in such a manner set my parenting synapses flying.  A “good” parent would tell you they were just proud to be a part of that moment.  And while I was extremely proud, the truth of the matter is this; I did what every parent who isn’t a self-righteous liar did.  Like a cunning tactician, I schemed, I plotted, and I planned for my daughter’s career as a WNBA super-star.  Questions began to twist around in my head.

“Was she in the ninetieth or the ninety-fifth percentile for height during her last checkup?”

“Would she be able to dunk like that girl from Baylor?”

“Would I be willing to wear a WNBA hat around?  C’mon it’s not as bad as hockey right?”

Sadly, I was doing what I had done repeatedly over the last eight years.   The second she demonstrated interest or ability in a specific area, I began romanticizing about her future acumen.  I like to assume that we all do this, although I suspect it’s a trait found predominantly in fathers.    I have no proof to that fact except to say that I am a male and I have been guilty of this on more occasions than my female counterpart.

There is an unspoken truth about being a parent, one that even when pressed to admit many of us wouldn’t.  Despite our war torn souls and aged faces at heart we are still children; still holding tight to the thought that the future holds something more magical than the average nine to five we ended up with.  Admit it guys, during that flag football game with your buddies you’re still pretending to be Barry Sanders, looking for that scout who thinks you have what it takes regardless of how slow your knees have become.  It’s the same reason ladies of all ages rediscover that childish glow every time a Disney Princess graces the screen in our living rooms.     It’s juvenile, it’s embarrassing, it’s awful to admit but despite all of those things, I think it makes us better parents.  Just don’t tell your kids!

Last week my daughter began organized basketball for the first time in her life.  The night before her first practice she and I spent time together shopping for the perfect pair of basketball sneakers.  To her it was a rather innocuous night out with her father, but to me it was so much more.  She wasn’t a WNBA super-star, not yet anyways, but I was so honored to be with her.  Privileged to be the man to buy her the first pair of sneakers she would play organized basketball in, just like my dad had done for me some twenty two years ago.   Back then I would have given anything to be Michael Jordan.  But on nights like that one, no matter how average I feel, I know there is nothing better than getting to be a dad.

My upright walkers and I ventured into Fred Large gymnasium the next morning moderately prepared for what the day had to offer us.  Never having played team basketball before my daughter was fraught with uncertainty.  I gave her a quick hug assuring her that everything was going to be OK.

“You even know how to use the glass” I said flashing a knowing smile.

“OK daddy.” She said as if she were trying to make me feel better.

My son, busy doing the skeleton dance from Hotel Transylvania looked as worried as a Rastafarian Medicine Man listening to a Bob Marley album.   I just smiled, silently assured that I had a ringer on my side.

“Those rims are only seven feet high.  I wonder if she is going to dunk on someone today or wait until next practice?”  I thought to myself as they began to warm up.

And then it happened.

“Oh shit.” I mouthed nearly letting the words escape my mouth.

They all could shoot and they were even using the glass!

The quiet epiphanies of parenthood, I guess we all have them.  Just don’t tell your kids!

Invaluable

Sometime last week I decided it was time to infiltrate my brittle brain with some new fodder.  My thinking centered around the idea that reading or listening to something new may provide a flicker of inspiration to my seemingly apathetic mind.   So I did what comes naturally to every consummate American consumer and made my way, somewhat defiantly, to a store I affectionately call “the center for self-centered morality and bigotry,” you may know it better as the red bull’s-eye, Circles McGee, that place where they have a shit ton of Burt’s Bees, but in many cultures its simply known as Target .  Now I know what you’re thinking, come on man you’re better than that!  But in my defense, at least it’s not Wal-Mart?  And let’s not fool ourselves here.   I am nowhere near better than that.  

While I’d like to get more into all the ethical atrocities generated by “that place where they have a shit ton of Burt’s Bees” (nowhere near the amount perpetuated by the Walton Gang,) I am going to save that for another day. 

Anyways, when I was through stalking my prey I took gentle inventory of my kill as it slid sadly down its escalator of doom. 

One Indie Rock and Roll Album- The National “Trouble Will Find Me”

One Book Bought Because I liked the Cover and It Was 20 Percent off- The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

My items slowly made their way to a somewhat energetic twenty something female Target worker, (From now on when you read the word Target insert Kristen Wiig’s voice from SNL.  It will make the rest of this bearable.)  Who, for some reason, was chirping at my wife and I like a diabetic bird on a Hershey’s bender.  I estimated that the young lady was stricken with a form of Tourette’s, either that or she was so impressed by the hipster cool of my media choices that she was indeed becoming a Rockin’ Robin.  Regardless, I didn’t want to make the poor thing feel awkward so I looked at my wife and did the only logical thing I could think of, reached deep into my bag of tricks and pulled out my Toucan Sam.  For those of you who now think I exposed myself at a (insert Kristen Wiig Voice) Target, Toucan Sam is, in all actuality a cartoon bird who pushes sugar on children as the spokesmen for Fruit Loops!  That,  and you’re a sick human being. 

Suffice to say, I chirped back.  Why?  Well, why not?   It just seemed like the right thing to do. 

Long story short, we chirped back and forth a few more times, I paid twenty five dollars for two things that cost roughly six dollars to produce, you’re welcome Harper Collins and Brassland Records, and I exited (insert Kristien Wiig voice) Target with my wife thinking this won’t be quite as cute in five years.

Now we get to the point of my bizarre rant!  Although I am unable to attest for the entirety of Gretchen Rubin’s book, at least one word she used early in her writing sent me into a tailspin of thought.  Stuck in between all of her scholarly musings regarding the philosophy and analytics of happiness lay the word “invaluable.”  There it was, screaming at me, littering my head with its empty promise, attacking my senses with a litany of shenanigans.  I shut the book, its cover still gleaning with the slime of bigotry, and tried to let my thoughts rest.  But, I just couldn’t shake it!  Invaluable, a word of no substance!

I was furious with myself.  With Gretchen Rubin for making it all so clear to me.  With Harper Collins for not publishing the book I sent them!  Why had I not noticed this before?

I jumped into my bed with a certain energetic aura laying my head next to my wife’s pillow.

“Oh no, what is it?” she half smiled knowing she was in for a treat.

“Invaluable.” I smirked

“Invaluable?”

“Yes, Invaluable!”

“What about it?” She shouted wishing I’d let her sleep.

“It’s a lie, a farce, a word by its very nature that is filled to its brim with metaphoric bullshit.” I said chuckling like Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

 “How do you figure?” She asked placating me coolly

“Think about it, who has the right to determine something’s value?   You don’t, I don’t, Gretchen Rubin sure as hell doesn’t.”

“Who is Gretchen Rubin?”

“Doesn’t matter.  What I am trying to say is this.  A single person cannot determine something’s value.  For instance, think of something you think is invaluable?”

“Our children?” She answered looking at me unamused.

“No, absolutely not!  That’s the answer everyone gives and it’s wrong.  I am not saying I’d ever sell our kids, but someone in Mexico would gladly pay money for them.  There is a whole enterprise based around it!  Nothing is invaluable; the word is full of shit!”

My wife stared at me for a long while trying to reconcile the idea that things like this would no longer be cute in five years then left me with these words before rolling over and falling asleep.

“Honey, do you remember when you were talking about the football player from Washington who could literally jump out of the gym?”

“Yes, he could literally jump out of the gym!” I answered excitedly.

“Well sweetheart now there are two words you fail to understand the meaning of.  I love you honey goodnight.”

A Million Ways to Say Nothing.

So, I setup this account a few weeks ago in an attempt to weave myself into the fabric of writing, or at the very least sharpen my voice through practice.  Like so many of us with an artistic goal I often find myself so immersed in the process t that I freely sacrifice my ability to step back and view the breath taking landscape laid out long before I ever had the idea to touch my words to paper.  Maybe that’s what I am doing now?  Maybe this is an attempt to discover a community of people who feel a little bit like I do.  A group of people aware of the power of art and its affect on the world, I know it exists, even if my experience with it has been limited. 

With that being said, I don’t know what I am getting myself into.  I have no vision or intent for this, am I supposed to?  Truth is I am a moderate at life.  There are days where I feel radically defiant, supremely pessimistic, hell bent on changing the world.  Other days I feel blindly optimistic filled with the short of joy that settles ones heart into a murmur of apathy.  But most days I fall somewhere in between.  Fully content to admit I am nothing special.  A small part of a large world filled with writers who, even on their best day, can only aspire to the sort of genius sparked from the thoughts of their predecessors.   Maybe that’s what this is all about, a place to document my aspirations to voice the sort of analytical power writers like Herman Hesse displayed as if it were intuition.  Then again, maybe this is the sort of classy blog that starts with the commanding intelligence of the word so and leaves you wanting more.  We shall see!