Saturday, June 09, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Last night we took the girls to their first baseball game -- a Minor League team not far from here. My older daughter's school had a special family night, and we got 4 tickets behind home plate for $20 -- cheaper than a trip to McDonald's or to the movies.

A couple of things I noticed last night that made me go hmmm:

My baby is a big girl now.
Skylar's best friend's family ended up in our row right next to us, and she got to sit next to her and she had a blast. She kept spying other friends, pointing and waving. I watched her singing and dancing, whispering secrets and hugging her little friends from school. She'll always be my baby girl, but my how she is changing.

Little sisters sometimes get a raw deal.
A four year-old's idea of a good time isn't sitting in one seat for several hours. My youngest was, you guessed it, b-o-r-e-d and so over the ballgame in such a short amount of time. But I think she endured for our sake, because she could tell we were having a good time, and for that, I love her even more. What's more, she DESPERATELY wanted her big sister and her friends to accept her into their little circle of fun, and she kept getting turned away. One of the friends actually did include her in a group hug at one point, and you could tell Fiona was overjoyed. We had a little chat about it on the way home, and explained that her sister loves her, but sometimes she needs to have her own time, too.

Rituals are some of the most powerful things in the world.
Perhaps one of the best and most memorable things you can do for a child is provide family rituals, or instill a sense of tradition. Last night, stepping into that park, I was moved. I remembered all of the times I went to a game with my dad or with my cousins. I made a beeline for the counter to order a hot dog, a bag of peanuts and a beer. We got the girls cotton candy and M&Ms and I did it without even thinking. Skylar and I sat side by side shelling peanuts and it almost moved me to tears. In 30 years, will she take her kids to the game and grab a bag of peanuts and think of me?

Will I have a legacy?
My daughter's principal, Mr. Nolan, is retiring this year. He is an amazing man. He knows every single child's name, without hesitation, who goes to his school. Last year, when my girl started kndergarten half days, I remember we went in for a special open house night just two weeks into school, and as we were heading down the hallway, he waved and smiled from ear to ear and said "Hey, Skylar! How are you?" and shook her hand. I was amazed. There was a tribute party for Mr. Nolan at school the other day, and my daughter came home, clearly upset, and she buried her head in the pillow, sobbing heavily, and she said she was sad beause she was going to miss Mr. Nolan. I was fascinated. Last night, when Mr. Noland arrived, four sections of a baseball park erupted in claps, squeals and children, reaching their hands out, waving, pointing and purely overcome with joy at the sight of Mr. Nolan. And he beamed, and smiled and waved, and shook as many hands as he could. I was left wondering: who cares when I walk into a room? Do I need to work harder to find the kind of joy that comes, from, for example, hundreds of children getting excited just to see me? Or is it easier than I think?

Funny how you go to see a game and end up seeing so much more.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Virtual Veritas

I stumbled across a new fascination: an online confessional for dads, and an online confessional for moms. I am pathetically addicted to reading the musings, lamentations and one-liners of dads and moms who are living the challenge of marriage with children.

I've been howling at some of the funny ones, frowning at the shameful ones and feeling deeply bad for the ones that seem so...desperate. But what I can't help but feel is some sort of comfort in knowing that those small moments when things seem so great -- or so bad -- aren't just my moments.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Tales of a Preschool Graduation

My youngest daughter graduated from preschool on Friday. I can't even begin to post right now about how it seems impossible that she's off to kindergarten next year, so I'll save that for another time and instead give you a glimpse of how my 4 year-old operates.

Here she is during the processional.

Now here she is sitting between two friends. Notice dude on the right isn't at all bored.

She then decided to take her cap off and throw it on the floor. She was the only child to remove her cap. Of course, my wife was furious and gesturing and mouthing to her to put it back on, like some crazy mime. My daughter got the death eyes and the stern tight lips several times. I quietly said, "Stop it. She's not going to put it back on if she sees you reacting like that." She simply looked at my wife and smirked and shook her head no. (and I thought it was awesome but I didn't tell my wife that.)

So, after my wife gave up and they were calling names, my daughter quickly put her cap back on, then walked over to get her diploma. I suppose she was bored and figured it would throw a little cheek, again, to mom. But mom was elated.

Sorry, my dear wife, she decided to take it off again and throw it on the floor. The only child to do so.

Again, my wife was trying to tell her to put it back on, but she refused, and walked the recessional without her cap and with her head held high. She also refused to look in our direction for a picture opportunity. ;-)

When all was said and done, she was happy to pose for pictures, just not with her cap, and was thrilled to have graduated. We gave her a flower and she beamed..."No one has ever given me a flower before! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

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I Don't Wanna Grow Up

We've all heard the only difference between men and boys is the size and cost of their toys. Maybe one the best parts of being a dad is the ability to buy toys -- recklessly -- and play with them yourself, all under the guise of spending time with the children.

I love to watch my kids play, because it reminds me of when I was a kid, with nary a care in the world other than who would win the battle for the castle that day, or what new structure would be added to the LEGO city by noon.

I was a LEGO kid. I had a massive collection of bricks and wheels and doors and windows and roof tiles. My cousin was into LEGO Space and LEGO Castle, but I was all about the LEGOLAND town -- the gas station, the police and fire houses. I used my bricks to make everything in the city -- houses, a school, stores, restaurants -- my LEGO city grew daily. I spent hours and hours building and re-building, tweaking and playing with my Matchbox cars in the LEGO city. And to this day, I love to build, and it's now something I like to do with my girls.

Their interest has been increasing lately, and it's amazing to watch them dig through a bucket and piece together a bridge, a gun, a bird. You can see the wheels turning in their minds as they place a piece, remove it, put in on somewhere else, maybe tweak again, and then you see the look -- the one that says "yes, that's the right spot for that what?!"

There's just something about the fun that comes from the challenge and the problem solving of building. And sometimes I wonder what kind of person I'd be today had I not spent so much time building. Would I be creative? Would I have th confidence to be outspoken? Would I be persistent, curious, open to new ideas? Would I be energzied more by the problem than the answer?

I imagine I'm not the only dad who grew up playing with LEGO. Which is why I'm anxious to hear if there are other dads out there who grew up with it, still play with it, or share it with their kids. Why? What makes it something you just can't forget...or give up? Drop me a mail or leave a comment!

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