25 June 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure

There are patterns that emerge when raising one’s children. Routines that get established and adhered to with a bizarre fierceness. In fact, after watching him arrange things just so last night on his shelf before going to bed, I called the Doozer “Particular Pete” for his insistence on making the world around him conform to his very specific desires. He was not a fan of the name.

But then there are surprises. Things that don’t go the way you expect them to. Just when you think you’ve got your kid figured out, they go and throw you a curveball. And so it was that our very own Particular Pete, who has ideas and opinions about everything that goes on in his world and around our house, told us he wanted to be surprised by his upcoming fifth birthday party.

(Our kid is five. This in itself is a surprise. The wife and I cannot quite figure out how this has happened. But I digress.)

We’d been talking about what kind of party he might want off and on for several weeks, maybe even months. And then all of a sudden he informed us that he didn’t want to know what it would be. Up until this point, he hasn’t picked out a theme for any his parties, they’ve all been surprises. And so he wants to stick with that tradition (for now).

For a kid who insists on picking out his own clothes—whether they actually match or not—and who is completely at ease dictating orders to his parents about how pretty much everything and anything should be done, this was quite a surprising turn. Not to mention, something of a challenge. I mean, we were just given carte blanche to design a birthday party that he will enjoy.

I’m thinking it might be a test. He wants to see how well we know him, how closely we’ve been paying attention. To suss out if we really know—and truly care about—what he likes.

So, these are a few of his favorite things:

Elvis Costello
Smoked gouda
Cooking pretend meals in a toy kitchen
Running in flip-flops
Reading lessons
Hugging his brother
Complaining about his brother
Milk drinking contests
Card games
The reptile house at the zoo
Vegetable gardening
Watching ants
Asking long streams of questions
Angry Birds
Brother baths

This is a lot of responsibility. There’s a lot of pressure to get this right. Like I said, it kinda feels like he’s testing us. So, how do we incorporate these elements into a fantastic shindig? Let’s see. We serve milk and gouda and vegetables from the garden. Instead of games, we watch ants. And birds. He performs a harmonica solo to “Pump It Up.” Then we let some snakes loose in the house. Ta-da.

Best fifth birthday party ever.

20 June 2013

Happy Father's Day

I’m a dad.

No, really. It’s true. But here’s the thing. It sort of seems like that is all I am now. My identity begins and ends with dad. Everything else seems to have faded away. I was a person before this, right? With a personality, with interests, with defining traits? Where did that all go?

So what brought on this philosophical conundrum you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you. This year, on Father’s Day, we went to Home Depot. Literally on Father’s Day. At which time I became painfully aware that I am officially a dad. And also, maybe the lamest person ever.

Yeah. That happened.

You hear “Dad" and “Dada" so much that you start to forget your actual name. No one else needs you in their life quite the way that they do. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a role quite like this one, a place in the world this defined. I guess I’m not always sure who I was before this.

There was a time where I might sleep off a hangover on a Sunday morning. When Father’s Day was a day to make an obligatory phone call to my own dad. And now I’m the person that this so-called holiday is honoring? What the hell?

They’re there to see me off in the morning, they’re there to greet me the moment I get home. Sad to see me go, genuinely excited to see me return. This is weird. I’m skeptical. What do you want? Like that guy who offered to help me shovel my driveway that one time during the first winter in our first house. What was that about? What did he want? Just being nice? Suspicious.

Why are they so interested in me, I wonder. I am not that interesting. Am I? I don’t think I have ever been that interesting. Maybe just because I’m the tallest person in the room? There’s something to that. They look up at me. Do they also look up to me? For now, maybe. That’s a lot of responsibility.

It’s exhausting.

So, Home Depot was pretty crowded on Father’s Day. This is where the dads hang out, y’all. If we have a scene, I suppose it is there, amongst the lumber and the power tools and all the other DIY household items. I’m not good at any of it. All these “dad” things. Never learned them. It’s weird being a dad. It feels like I forgot to do my homework all the time. No matter how many times I go to Home Depot (yay, homeownership!) there are always things I will walk past and think, What is that? What do you do with that thing? How does that work? No idea.

I still hear “Dad” sometimes and think, who are they talking to exactly? And why are their voices so high-pitched? Who is this “dad” they keep referring to?

Oh, right.

Do you ever get used to it? I mean, this is four years in now, almost five. Which is pretty deep. There must be a point where this becomes normal. I mean, there are people who you absolutely recognize as “dads” whether they even have children or not. But having children must make you feel like a “dad” at some point, right? Or at least an adult? Sometimes I just don’t.

At least there’s the Lonely Island out there to help me make some sense of this new reality. (And in case you’re not already familiar with their work, this is NSFW.)

07 June 2013

The City of Brotherly Love

Ah, summer.

With every season, there comes a certain set of rituals. In summer, it used to be things like drinking outside (often during the day) and making plans around the concert schedule at the local outdoor amphitheater. Today, we know it’s summer because we find ourselves purchasing a new pair of Keens for the Doozer. Now, it’s two pair of Keens, one for each Doozer. This is summer.

And that’s okay. I guess.

This year, on our annual expedition to REI for summer footwear, we selected the pair for Little Brother first and then gave the Doozer a choice of color options for his pair. He didn’t even need to think about it. He saw the pair on his brother’s feet and immediately decided he wanted the exact same pair, the exact same color.

Here I thought the little brother was supposed to look up to the big brother—I mean, that happens, but still. I never had a brother. I don’t know what’s going on here. Little Brother is obsessed with the Doozer—seriously, obsessed—calling out his name all the time when he’s not physically in sight. But there’s a fascination with “our baby” that the Doozer has that seems to be comprised of several different—and often opposing—elements.

There’s love, certainly. But there’s also a bit of jealousy. Maybe resentment. A sense of competition. It must be terribly confusing for a tiny human to show up in your home and usurp some of your position in the place. I can also imagine that it might seem to the first little human that the new little human has actually completely usurped the original’s position in the family.

Which is how we found ourselves over this past winter having to track down a pair of one-piece, footed pajamas for the Doozer. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find such an article of clothing for an almost-five-year-old person? Do you know how rare it is that one-piece, zip-up pajamas with attached feet are made in the appropriate size for someone about to enter kindergarten? Let me save you the trouble. They are not easy to find.

We recently took a trip to Portland. Before leaving, we asked the Doozer if we brought him something back, what would he want? Not familiar with the concept of souvenirs from exotic, far-off places, he told us, “Legos.” Which we ended up getting him, along with a storybook that highlighted several Portland landmarks, Larry Gets Lost in Portland.

For Little Brother, we picked out a tiny T-shirt from Voodoo Doughnuts, featuring their tagline, which is hilarious, though not altogether appropriate to be emblazoned across a one-year-old’s chest: “The magic is in the hole.” Naturally, ever since our return, we have heard frequently about how the Doozer himself wishes he had his own Voodoo Doughnuts T-shirt.

He’s perfectly fine matching his brother. Footwear, outfits, whatever it is. It’s weird, but it’s also genuine. I don’t think it’s entirely about having equality, or not being excluded from something Little Brother gets to have or experience. I think it’s more than that. Somewhere along the line, I think it occurred to him that they are a team. I’m not sure how that happened, where that notion came from. And for now, it’s kind of a beautiful thing to watch.

There’s lots of hugging. Impromptu brother concerts (or, just banging indiscriminately on vaguely musical “instruments”), giggles and splashing in the bathtub, for brother baths. I’m sure someday they will turn on each other and start going at each other like a bunch of rival newscasters in Anchorman. Or that they’ll band together and use their skills for evil as opposed to good, uniting to stage a serious uprising against the wife and I.

But for now, I’ll enjoy the cacophony and the adorable photo-ready clothing. I will endure getting drenched at bathtime and the challenge of finding coordinating outfits. I will bask in the glow of brotherly love and appreciate my front-row seat for this ridiculous show.

Maybe I’ll even get my own pajamas with feet.