2 years, 6 months.
This morning before I dropped you off at school, I told you I wanted to take a picture of you wearing your cool sunglasses for Nonna and Papa.
Without hesitation, this is how you posed:
You instantly crossed your arms like a classic tough guy!
How did you know to do that? It’s not something I’ve ever specifically taught you.
Yet somehow, you knew that because you were getting your picture taken with your black skull-and-crossbones sunglasses (which you identify as “robots”) you instinctively knew that meant to look as masculine as possible.
So you did.
After laughing about this picture all day, a deep thought finally crossed my mind:
I am your main model of masculinity. You get free testosterone lessons from me everyday.
Sure, I know the importance of you getting regular exposure to a positive male role model.
But this goes beyond that. In fact, it’s more subtle than that. The way I walk, talk, play, react… you’re catching clues from my daily performance.
You are learning to be a boy (and ultimately, a man) according to my free lessons.
I take it as a compliment that you are a strong-willed yet polite little boy. That’s pretty much what I’m aiming for.
It’s important to me that you are a true Southern gentleman when it’s all said and done.
I want to know you’ll always stand up for yourself and protect others, yet not be an instigator.
It’s no secret: I am raising and training you to be a leader among others.
Sure, I may err on the side of bravado here, but I love to see that at just 2 and a half, you already sort of remind me of the toddler version of Bruce Willis.
I can easily imagine you driving a motorcycle away from a fiery explosion; like in every cliche action movie trailer I’ve ever seen.
You’re the man.
2 years, 6 months.
Because of my legitimate fear of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, I am trying to counteract the numbness in my left shoulder, wrist, and hand by working those muscles on a daily basis.
Therefore, last week I started a daily habit of stopping by the playground near my office to do pull-ups.
I imagine it’s quite a random sight at 1:15 every afternoon in Aspen Grove Park to see some random guy wheel in on his mountain bike, set down his book bag and helmet, do several pull-ups on the playground, then speed off into the distance.
Predictably, there are always a few moms with their young kids already there when I arrive.
My most awkward encounter so far happened about a week ago.
There was a grandmother with her daughter- a mom who was about my age, accompanied by her own daughter who was about your age.
In the non-creepiest way I knew how, I approached the 7 foot high monkey bars. Immediately, the three of them all looked up at me, seemingly concerned.
I felt the need to explain:
“Hi, I work in one of the offices nearby. I come here everyday now to do my pull-ups because I type all day on a computer, and this helps me.”
The grandmother responded:
“Well, thank you for explaining that…”. The tone and look on her face was completely serious. She meant what she was saying.
From that point, she began rationalizing out loud, trying to convince herself as well as her grown daughter, that I was there basically to “blow off steam” from the stress of working in an office.
That wasn’t the case at all. My job doesn’t stress me out at all. I love my job.
However, I felt it to be in my best interest to leave immediately, without trying to further justify my existence. So I did.
I’m too cheap to pay for a gym membership; not to mention, I’d rather be outside anyway, breathing fresh air and feeling the sunlight on my skin. So the combination of mountain biking and doing pull-ups on the playground is like a free gym membership to me.
Sure, it looks weird to onlookers, but the only rule I saw on the park sign was against people smoking there- not against adults showing up without a child.
For me, what this story reveals is that each parent has certain things they see as a red flag; some possible threat to their child’s safety and well-being. I know I’ve got mine. (And I’ve learned not to mention them on the Internet anymore!)
I’m just a harmless dad of a 2 and a half year-old son who is using the city park for a minute or two as part of his daily exercise routine. But that’s not how it looks to everybody. To some, I am the childless creepy guy in the park.
2 years, 2 months.
When I saw this picture I took of you this morning, I thought, “Here’s proof my son actually looks like me!”
The plan for Sunday afternoon was that Mommy would do the grocery shopping while I took you to get a haircut.
But once we checked in at the economy-priced place we usually go to, we were #13 on the queue, with a 45 minute wait; not to mention, you were crying because you knew why we were there.
So I made you a deal:
“Okay, Jack… listen. Would you rather Daddy give you a haircut when we get home instead of those people inside that store?”
You instantly felt relieved; I could see it:
“Yeah… Daddy, you give me haircut?”
Once we got home, you didn’t put up a fight at all. You stood on the back patio stairs as I buzzed your hair with a half-inch guard all over.
“You cut it all off, Daddy?”
I explained, “No son, you’ll still have hair, but this haircut will keep you cool in the warm weather.”
Mommy instantly fell in love with your new look. I thought she might simply be partial.
However, I learned that would not be the case.
All your teachers and friends at school said the same thing: You look really handsome with your new haircut.
That was my official confirmation.
As your dad, I have to take that as a double compliment.
One, you’re my son and someone is complimenting how sharp you look.
Second, it proves I have respectable skills with a set of hair clippers.
Not to mention, Mommy and I will now be saving about 13 bucks a month by not having to pay for your haircuts.
I was thinking: Maybe the more comfortable that you and I become with my barbering abilities, perhaps I could start learning how to fade your hair to where it’s a little longer on top.
But hey, if the buzz cut works for you and Mommy, and it saves us $13 a month, I don’t want to complicate things.
By default, I am now your favorite barber.
2 years, 6 months.
This morning we drove the first half of the way to school in the rain, but the skies began to clear by the second half.
As they did, I announced, “Jack! Look, in the sky! It’s a rainbow! Do you see it?”
You looked through the windshield, asking, “Where? Where?” but not understanding what you were actually looking for.
Finally, you looked above the green I-65 South sign and finally saw what I did.
“I see yellow choo-choo, Daddy!”
That sounds pretty random when I tell it, but I have to consider: You’ve never seen a rainbow until today.
To you, it was a yellow train chugging across the sky.
Despite my 29 and a half year head start into life, I still am fascinated by rainbows; as you obviously are too.
Actually, it’s pretty hard to look up in the sky and see a rainbow and not at least think, “Cool, a rainbow.”
A rainbow is a universal sign of hope, I assume.
I have to assume that as hard as life can be, a person has to see a rainbow and consider that there is hope beyond what we see. For you, I would have to think that life is already more like that already.
You haven’t failed in life, yet.
You haven’t been legitimately disappointed about anything.
You haven’t regretted anything in your past.
You haven’t only wished you would have known sooner.
Hopefully, that’s where I come in. I want you to learn from my mistakes. Sure, you’ll make plenty of your own mistakes; that’s part of life.
But I want to help fast forward you through the learning curve of life.
It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but there are clues of hope embedded into everyday life, if we know what to look for.
2 years, 6 months.
On Mother’s Day, Mommy and I took you to your very first baseball game. Coincidentally, the Nashville Sounds (our family’s home team) was playing the Sacramento River Cats (Mommy’s hometown team).
I almost have to use the word “miraculous” here to describe how long you lasted: You watched the game for 30 whole minutes!
Mommy and I were so impressed that as a 2 and a half year-old, you were able to pay attention to the game without wanting to get out of your seat for that long.
Seriously, you watched the game for 30 straight minutes!
Though, I should admit, you were due for a nap. So your drowsiness was countered by the fact that a real baseball game was going on right in front of you.
Not to mention, Ozzy, the mascot for the Nashville Sounds, came by to visit all the kids in the bleachers.
I’m pretty sure I actually convinced you that we had just visited him in the zoo the day before.
You didn’t really question why a giant cat who was creeping along the ground one day at the zoo, would be so friendly, walking upright and in uniform, and so happy to meet you the very next day.
But you rolled with it.
Then, you realized there was a whole stadium to explore. You were mesmerized (!) by the “tractors” (glorified golf carts) you found.
Mommy and I literally had to snap you out of your gaze on them:
“Jack? Jack! Let’s go…”.
And so you did. You discovered that the ramp of the deck served as a great “hill” for your red Hot Wheels car to race down.
Interestingly, that was the first toy car we ever bought you, exactly a year ago.
Now you have like 53 of them; many of which currently serve as the crushable cars for your monster trucks.
Mommy and I secured both ends of the ramp to make sure you didn’t escape us in all your excitement.
As for your “sock giraffe” that I bought Mommy on our honeymoon in New Hampshire nearly five years ago, you felt it was necessary he shared every adventure of the baseball game with you.
Along the way, you caught the attention of a sweet older man who was running the ticket gate:
“Hang on, little guy. I think I have something for you in the back.”
He handed you an official baseball that the Nashville Sounds had used for their practice.
As seen in the picture of you holding the ball, you were a bit confused on why you were getting a free gift that didn’t come wrapped in plastic or that didn’t require a trip to Target.
Or involve you earning it by going potty.
But again, you rolled with it.
I was thinking today about this. Something I really miss, as a 32 year-old man, is experiencing a version of life where everything is new and exciting and mysterious.
As for you, the kid, the boy wonder, you get to wake up to new adventures every day.
Dinosaurs are real.
A big cat lives in the zoo but serves as a baseball team’s mascot on the side.
Your imagination has no limits because the universe is truly magical.
I miss that.
It’s funny how these thoughts can stem from a baseball game.
I suppose that’s part of the reason that baseball games are so intertwined with American tradition and nostalgia.
Watching a baseball game at a stadium is like being taken through a portal where life seems both completely familiar yet completely brand new.
Maybe some would say it’s just a baseball game.
I have a feeling you understand where I’m coming from on this one.
Oh, and needless to say, you slept the whole way home… next to your baseball, of course.