Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for October, 2008

Iris Turns Three. Thank Goodness For Yertle The Turtle

It’s no secret that Coldplay has been a staple in my parenting strategy. I always said that the soothing sounds of their 2005 album X&Y saved my sanity through several difficult nights. Iris would politely coo as I would sing along with Chris Martin. So earlier this summer, when I first saw the iTunes commercial that previewed Coldplay’s upcoming album, I was ecstatic. It was perfect timing for Robyn’s upcoming arrival and certainly Iris would be excited given her love of the first album. So I got Viva La Vida, the new album, the day it came out and put it on my iPod for repeated listening. I started playing it in the car when we drove around. Finally, I was ready to unveil my singing of the songs. As I sang the first two lines, I was in for a surprise.

DADDY: (singing) I used to rule the world. Seas would rise when I gave the word…

IRIS: Daddy?


DADDY: Yes, Iris.


IRIS: Don’t sing that song.


DADDY: Why?


IRIS: I don’t like it.

What?!? Iris, no! This is Coldplay. You have to like it. You loved the first one. You have to like this one.

And then I thought a little more. This wasn’t the same Iris. This Iris was almost three. She had different tastes. And more importantly, she could talk back. Suddenly, these moments call for a different approach. So, we started talking some more.

DADDY: But Iris, this is a special song.

IRIS: Why?


DADDY: Because it’s about Yertle the Turtle. It’s about what happens after his tower falls.


IRIS: (Silence)

I had her. The power of Dr. Seuss’ classic tale. I explained that Yertle regrets what he did and he is sitting alone because he got too greedy. It worked. I started singing again and Iris listened. I came to a realization that day. Iris is now open to critical reasoning…and life would never be the same.

So, as Iris hit her third birthday this week, I can truly say parenting has taken the turn I dreamed about. The complexities of her personality are fascinating. She loves garbage trucks. She memorizes her favorite books and can recite the lyrics to "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". And she is a complete sponge. The first couple of years feel like an unending "Miracle Worker" scene where Helen Keller can’t talk, but is trying hard to communicate. But now, the intellectual stakes were raised. The other night, I was going off on the lack of affordability of quality health care and its importance to this year’s Presidential election. At the end of my little rant, I looked over at Iris and noticed Iris just paying attention. She wasn’t scared. She wasn’t confused. She just listened to everything I said and I am convinced she just soaked it all in. She is continually tuned in to the conversations we have and, in some cases, she can spout some of the concepts back to me. How long before she’s taking part in these conversations and providing her own spin on the issues that affect the world. In some ways, I can’t wait. Of course, there’s still time. Take this follow-up conversation we had when reading Yertle a few days later:

DADDY: Yertle overstepped his bounds when he got too powerful. This reminds me of the Patriot Act.

IRIS: Yertle looks like a parrot

That’s right Iris. No need to grow up too fast. Stay three forever. And for the record, Robyn LOVES Viva La Vida. Or at least she’s not voicing her approval when I sing. Just in case, I’ve got that Yertle story…

Looking For The Father Of My Two Little Girls

I just turned 37. Looking back, needless to say, this was a eventful
year for me. It marked a huge transition in my life. I think we all
know what I am talking about.

I bought my eldest daughter her first bottle of nail polish.

Oh yeah, we had another kid too. And there was the whole heart
surgery thing. New job, new city, yada, yada, yada. But back to the
nail polish…

Folks, I am the father of two little girls. This was not the
original plan. When I was younger, I always assumed I would have two
sons. It just seemed like the natural order, the same way my parents
had two boys. I was convinced that I’d have a little baseball player
and a football player. Of course, that may still be the case as Iris
can identify the pitcher, catcher, and hitter in a baseball game and
the Titans are 5-0 when I watch the game with Robyn. Still, I expect my
future days are to be filled with ballet recitals and Hannah Montana
concerts (or whoever is the big sensation when Iris is older). The nail
polish is just the start. Iris was really excited to see her Tata’s
(aka grandma’s) toes painted when I remembered some nail polish that
Cherise had and I told Iris that if she was good, I’d paint her
toenails. And she was. And I did. And we decided purple would look
really good. And it didn’t occur to me until much later that I
certainly must’ve broken some "man laws" in doing this (though by
buying the nail polish in San Francisco, it did seem more normal than
in most other places). It seems I have veered off the course of the
virile beer-swilling testosterone-filled red blooded male and now find
myself with barrettes in my hair (for you men out there, barrettes are
hair clips–yeah, I didn’t know what they were either before
fatherhood) and showing tremendous empathetic excitement for pink
underwear.

How the mighty have fallen.

Alas, I have entered a special fraternity, that of the father
with two girls. My uncle did it and my cousins turned out great, so I
suppose I should take some notes there. Bono did it and I’m always
paying attention to what he does (in fact, the title of this blog comes
from one of his songs). My good friend Trent did it and I always give
his girls credit for changing my mind and convincing me to want girls
while Cherise was pregnant with Iris. Of course, they had a third child
and it was a boy, so he turned in his membership [Special note to Trent
& his wife Dawn, if they’re reading out there: Happy 10th
anniversary to a couple that as served as a great example for us!
]. I
highly doubt we’ll take a shot at #3 (I think Cherise has even higher
doubt than me), so I have tucked away the idea of being Archie Manning
watching his sons on DirecTV every Sunday. And still, I am really
excited–probably moreso than I would’ve been with boys. Why?

Herein lies my 37th year epiphany. The toughest part about
getting married for me was knowing that I was falling in love for the
last time. By committing to one woman, I would never have that
excitement you get when you meet someone new and the possibilities are
endless. Obviously, if the committed relationship is worth it (and a
decade and two kids later, I don’t think Cherise and I are
complaining), it’s definitely a fair trade. But still, the opening arc
that marks a successful relationship is invigorating. Heck, even the
unsuccessful ones could be adventures. And when you get married, you
cut yourself out of that game. But I was wrong. You can fall in love
again–over and over. Just have a daughter.

The affection that a father can show his daughter and vice
versa is unconditional and unlimited. On a given day, Iris will kiss
and hug me dozens of times and we rarely have a conversation that
doesn’t include the phrase "I love you". While I won’t let her be
spoiled, I don’t have to worry about teaching them to maintain a "tough
exterior" and follow all those man laws (like the ones I freely
violated to buy the nail polish). Girls have their lessons, but I’ll
leave those to Cherise. I’m madly in love with Iris and Robyn is doing
everything to get the same love. What’s an even greater revelation is
that this process repeats itself. Every year, Iris’ personality gains
layers of complexity and she becomes this new person and I fall again.
Just by reading the past entries in this blog, I recognize that the
things that excited me a year ago have been replaced by all new
characteristics. As an example, lately I constantly find myself
grinning like a smitten fool when Iris goes into one of her
soliloquies where she starts telling stories and sharing her
imagination. It’s just so much fun to watch and I am often overwhelmed
by the
love I feel for her. And with Robyn, I am seeing the cycles start all
over again.

I have many friends that don’t have children and I don’t even
bother to explain why they should have kids. On the surface, it doesn’t
make sense. "Forget your free time, your me time, your peace of mind,
and everything else." Yeah, not a great sales pitch. But much like
explaining marriage to the confirmed bachelor, the only counter is "you
don’t know what you’re missing". As this birthday went by and for the
first time, the family feels like it is probably complete, I recognize
now more than ever that I don’t want to miss a thing.

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