Saturday, October 31, 2009


This is my favorite holiday.

Halloween is the only holiday left in our mainstream, washed out version of suburban American culture in which the unexpected can happen. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Groundhog Day, Easter, 4th of July, or the Day that the Blazers Make the Playoffs? Sure, these days have a lot of goodwill, brotherly love, and church attendance to go around. But HALLOWEEN is the only holiday in which we OPEN OUR DOORS to the general public. It is generally accepted that groups of costumed children will roam the streets, knock on doors, take their handfuls of chocolate largesse, and disappear into the night. There is also this underlying assumption that people will scare each other, and the potential for childhood fear adds a mixture of excitement and adrenaline.

I've never been one for Haloween parties. For me, the real action happens at the front door. Most years, I don't even have a costume to speak of. I just put on some kind of crazy wig, and a funny hat, long tights, a cape, and anything else that looks crazy. Then I make a big fire, we drink cider, and I lie in wait for the little cherubs to come and visit.

This year will be no different. The script will play out as it always does. But this year, we will go out on the early Daddy rounds, knocking on our neighbors' doors before the real ghouls and goblins come out to play. Jeep will be dressed as a pumpkin. Daddy will be wearing a warm coat and holding a cold hand. If you see us, wave hello! This is my favorite holiday, after all. But maybe, just maybe, it's because I love the tricks and treats.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The SAHD Gig Ain't for Everyone

I may have mentioned, but I think I'm a pretty good dad.

Specifically, I'm a good Stay-At-Home-Dad. If indeed the Stay-At-Home-Dad movement is really a movement and not just a bunch of guys too bored or lazy to work, then I definitely belong to it. Hell, I'm an advocate. I think all guys should be SAHDs. Unfortunately, I have discovered that the daddy life is not for everyone, and for some it's a downright bad idea.

This is the story of a bad stay-at-home dad. He's a good dad, but he'd be better off with a job and a good daycare. Sometime early last year, I met this guy and his young son. We'll call him Curtis. He lives in my neighborhood, and we "hooked up" through our wives who met one night while they were walking their respective infants through the hills of West Portland.

Sadly, this is a classic story of young romance and harsh breakup. I was excited to meet another dude whose situation was so similar to my own. But somehow there was no spark. We met a few times, took our kids for hikes, and met up at the library story hour. We even we went out for lunch. Not only did this SAHD "dating" make me feel like Harvey Milk with a 1-year-old, it just wasn't fun.

Curtis was a downer. He had a generally negative outlook on the world, and seemed unhappy with every aspect of raising his child. Eventually, our relationship devolved into a bi-monthly phone call and a halfhearted attempt to get together. Let's be honest here - I blew the guy off. He was genuinely looking for dad-friend, a buddy to hang with and ease his burden down the lonely road of childcare. I just couldn't be that guy.

The last several times we talked on the phone, we had the same conversation. I would say (in all honesty) "I'm pretty busy this week." Curtis would reply, (skeptically) "That's amazing." Then there would be this short pause, where we both considered what this might mean.

I feel bad for this guy. He didn't see his days ahead of him filled with adventure. The wonders of learning to walk, read books, climb stairs, and eat with a fork were lost on him. A few short years ago, I would have found these things just as dull. It makes me wonder - what is the difference between us?

My life with the boy isn't just baby talk and diaper changes. I don't stay at home, watching the clock. We go out EVERY DAY. While it is true that I don't cover as much ground as I used to, pre-baby, we still use every minute of our day to find some action, go out to lunch, or walk through the park. I figured out early, to make this thing work, you've got to have some get up and go in you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Playing with Fire

My boy is thirteen months old now. He has seen a lot in his short life, travelled, and experienced the love of his parents and family. He had a good run as a baby, and now we are rapidly moving into the land of Toddler, also known as the Land of the Lost.

I say Lost, because that is how my Toddler seems. He can't say real words yet, and really only points at what he wants. We tried to teach him some signs, but he seems to prefer the "Uhh-uhh-uhhh" that is so effective when coupled with a pointed finger or hand. At times, he seems to want everything, and nothing at once. He is exploring everything, which makes the Daddy Life very nervous.

Over the past week we have had a cold in the Daddy Life household. This means that we are home more, wearing sweats and slouching around the house. The kitchen is a minor wreck, and on top of that, the Indian Summer has turned into Fall Chill. One of my many household duties, The Daddy Life started a fire in the fireplace.

This has provided young Jeep with one of the first opportunities to test the limits of his parents and their newfound parenting skills. The fireplace is one of the first arenas in which we are beginning to struggle with the magic word: NO.

Actually, I don't say NO at all. I say BE CAREFUL, IT'S HOT. And then of course my young Toddler looks at me to make sure I am watching, and moves to touch the fireplace screen anyway, which isn't really that hot. So then I pick him up and move him away and we find something else to entertain ourselves. This has worked pretty well, but suddenly these limits are sprouting up all over the house.

NO, YOU CAN'T PUT YOUR HAND IN THE TOILET (while closing the lid)
NO, THAT IS DADDY'S CUP OF COFFEE (I give Jeep his own plastic mug for pretend coffee)

When he wants something that I don't want to give him, I usually just sweep him up in my arms, carry him out of the room, and we find something else to focus on. This almost always works.

I can see trouble brewing on the horizon.