Monthly Archives: July 2014

Father And Son

Shocking revelation number 873. Fatherhood is a hard job. Really.Fucking.Hard. Furthermore, it is a job without much gratitude or even acknowledgement. I heard recently on NPR’s “Science Friday” that researchers studying parenting don’t even consider fathers. This I know to be true. We used to get “Parenting” magazine, which may as well be called “Mothering” magazine for all the attention it pays to those of us with external genitalia. When it does deign to grace us with it’s attention, fathers are portrayed either as hapless boobs unable to remember which end gets diapered or slavering beasts whose thoughts return to boobs five minutes after returning from the Maternity Ward.

Truth is, fatherhood is a lifetime commitment. This was brought home to me recently when my father arrived for a five week vacation, his first in two years. Medical issues kept him in Blighty last year, so he had been anticipating this trip for quite some time and was ready to kick back and spread his favour far and wide. Let me state up front that I love my dad and now that I am a father too, I have developed a deep appreciation for all that he and my mum did for me over the years.  I didn’t realise fully  at the time, but he sacrificed a lot for us and made darn sure we were financially secure and well provided for materially.

He manages pretty well on his retirement income and was able to put aside enough funds to cover his expenses while visiting  and made no bones about his desire to “Take care of things”.

This is where it got weird. We all remember our youth when our parents took care of all our financial needs and had their hands in their pockets more often than not, but imagine how it feels to be fifty and be in that situation. Dad made no bones about paying for everything and anything as his way of balancing out the financial support he extended to my brother over the last two years, but still, it felt weird to be in Costco buying food and beer for my birthday party (see “Happy Birthday”) and have my dad hand me  a wallet that was more than capable of choking any donkey within 20 miles.

In fact, I didn’t need to take any money out of the bank for the entire five weeks of his visit and the only time I was allowed to pay for anything was the trip to see his first ever MLS game and his last night when my sweetie and I took him to a restaurant for a farewell meal, and only then because I had made it quite clear to him that those events were non-negotiable.

Some things just don’t change. He still sees me as a teenager, despite the fact that I’m most clearly not, and I know how he feels. My son just turned 12 and is one of the most intelligent and caring people I have ever met, yet I still see him as a wide eyed two year old fascinated by his first sight of falling snow and  can’t believe that the tiny bundle of pink we brought home from the hospital nine years ago is already turning into a young woman.

Damn, but that last paragraph made me tear up, and I can feel the years slipping away from me. I only hope that no matter how old we are, that my kids stay my kids and that I can be as good a dad to them as mine has been to me.

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Filed under family, personal relationships

Happy Birthday

I celebrated a birthday recently. Nothing unusual in that you may say, but it is the first one I’ve celebrated in a decade. My daughter was born on my 41st birthday, and as you can imagine, one can’t compete with that, so whilst we all had much fun decorating the garden in pink and purple, setting up Princess Pavilions, organising craft activities, inflating bouncy castles and balloons, my birthday was acknowledged begrudgingly, if at all by my Ex mentioning it in passing as the birthday party morphed into a late evening barbeque with our friends.

Lest you all reach for the world’s smallest violin, I’m not invoking victimhood. I love my daughter and will always put her first, but it’s nice to have some recognition of having survived yet another lap around Sol.

This year was different. I hit the big five-oh and my sweetie wanted to make sure that the event didn’t go unremarked. I drew up a list and she sent out emails and made all the arrangements whilst I remained in blissful ignorance ( “No change there” I hear you say) until the day.

This is where it got weird. I usually spend the day shifting tables, setting up and generally making sure everything is organised whilst my Ex worked her way down her list of tasks. “A woman’s work is never delegated” as Basil Fawlty once remarked, so it was no wonder that I felt more than a little guilt sitting in her kitchen while she busied herself with the final preparations, insisting that I relax. Seeing how much energy she was putting into the event made me realise just how much effort I had expended in the past and how much I was treated like a servant in my own home.

Of course the evening was a great success, with much drinking, eating and conversation, and I can’t begin to explain how nice it was to be able to sit down and just enjoy an entire afternoon without having to run inside to deal with some minor chore every ten minutes. The decorations were overwhelmingly red and white and my sweetie had even gone to the great extravagance of buying Liverpool Football Club paper plates, cups and hats for the occasion. The cake was an amazing rendition of the Liverpool crest, and I just couldn’t believe that she had gone to so much effort on my behalf.

Then of course, came the gifts which fell into two categories. The useful ones were incredibly on target and much appreciated. The gag gifts also had a lot of thought behind them, including the pack of replacement pencil leads (think about that one),and the place mat with my head stuck onto the bodies of assorted dinosaurs. I was truly humbled by the amount of effort and thought that had gone into each gift. My friends are a truly wonderful bunch, and to be the centre of their attention humbled me in a way that I have rarely experienced.

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Filed under family, friends, lifestyle

Hand In Glove.

I appear to have made a habit of making shocking revelations in this blog, and I fear that this entry is no exception, so I will pause while you steel yourself. Ready? I’ve never owned a baseball glove.

Please come out from under the bed. You could suffocate if you wrap that Stars and Stripes any tighter around yourself, although I suspect that you can’t hear me as you have your fingers jammed in your ears and are singing “God Bless America” at the top of your lungs. Here, have a piece of Mom’s apple pie and calm down.

In fact, I’ve only worn a baseball glove twice in my life; the first time was when helping out at my son’s training session a couple of years ago as I ran around collecting balls as he practiced batting. The second episode was only this summer when my daughter attended a softball pitching training session. After being shown the basic techniques, all the girls settled in for some pitching practice with the help of a family member to act as catcher. I have to say that it gave me great pleasure to see her delivering balls with a fair degree of accuracy and more than a little pace, especially as it was her first ever attempt at pitching.

There is a great deal of satisfaction in hearing and feeling the ball slap into your glove, especially when it is your own flesh and blood delivering the ball. She didn’t pitch this season, but hopefully she will next year, although I have to say that her batting this year has been spectacular. Of course, I attend as many games as I can, although I missed a couple this year due to events scheduled before the season’s fixtures were known. About a third of the way through the season she remembered that she is both competitive and aggressive and her whole approach changed; she came to the plate wound up like a spring, daring the pitcher to throw a strike, and I’m happy to report that apart from a couple of sacrifice RBIs and a couple of good hits that deserved better, almost every time she got a hit, she got a run.

In blazing sun, in torrential rain she went out and always did her best and enjoyed herself even in defeat. My only regret is that her team didn’t make the playoff final and I was denied the opportunity to dye my hair pink for the game as I had promised her. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. I took a tube of temporary dye all the way to San Francisco on a trip with my sweetie just so I would have it available and be prepared to attend the match as soon as I got home. I bet that would have give airport security something to puzzle over.

It wasn’t a terribly successful season, but the most important thing is that she developed as a person, improving those soft skills that are so vital in order to be a decent human being; teamwork, compassion, empathy, sportsmanship, determination, courage. That’s what I understand when I read the phrase ” It’s not the winning that counts, but how you play the game”.

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Filed under child rearing, Sport