Two Wonderful Girls. One Day At A Time…

Archive for October, 2009

Four more years! Four more years!

Four years ago tonight (October 12th), I was wandering around Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, searching for a bite to eat while Cherise was asleep in relative comfort provided by her epidural and hours away from bearing our first child.  I hadn’t had anything to eat in several hours and there weren’t many places open, but I did manage to find a Quizno’s and grabbed a sandwich.  As I quickly scarfed it down, I thought of the enormity of the moment.  That would likely be my final meal before I crossed through a very significant gate:  the world of fatherhood.  In the midst of trying to be useful through what would be 50+ hours of labor, it was like the world was temporarily on pause during that meal and I was staring clear into what would be my last nine hours of true freedom.  I think I felt the way some people do before their wedding–the nervous butterflies of realizing there’s no turning back and the anxiousness of the unknown.  All the prep work has been done.  The crib has been built.  The car seat installed.  The name chosen.  But the nine months of waiting were so much easier to predict than the one day after she enter the world.  Well, Iris arrived that next morning and  in the nearly 1500 days since, the unpredictability has continued.  Fortunately,  Iris has managed to survive her well-meaning father and successfully made it to her fourth birthday.

Four years is a significant length of time when you are a kid, but perhaps even moreso as a parent.  We’re no longer novices.  This is who we are.  I can barely recall an Iris-less existence.  It’s a term in office for many politicians.  And a part of me wants to lift a phrase from Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, and ask "How’m I doin’?"  But, in reality, that’s not the important question.  The real question is:  "How’s she doin’?"  Honestly, I couldn’t be much happier with how she’s turned out.   Physically, she’s a strong, robust, active kid that has been fortunate enough to gain some of Cherise’s physical features after her early years of looking like a dead ringer for me.  Mentally, she’s a down-to-earth kid who isn’t spoiled, (usually) respects her elders, and (usually) says "please" and "thank you".  She’s got great eating habits, loves to tell jokes, and adds a spark whenever she enters a room.  Other than a weekly Sesame Street (and some occasional baseball with her daddy), she doesn’t really watch TV and she’s only seen one movie ("Horton Hears a Who").  We won’t keep the embargo on forever (hell, I was raised on TV myself), but it’s been nice to keep her influences away from the sensory overload and more pure in the early going to let her mind grow.  We’ve kept her busy with books, water colors, Play Doh, sand, etc.–things that let her express herself and what she’s thinking.   Of course, she’s not completely devoid of outside influences.  She’s learning to be a baseball fan (including my favorite question: "Daddy, why would anyone want to be a Red Sock?").  Just last week, she played her first round of Guitar Hero and she kept saying "let’s do that again" each time we played Bon Jovi’s "Livin On A Prayer" (her parents’ Jersey roots finally appear).  She’s mastered the art of the fist bump and I am working on teaching her to "get that dirt off her shoulder" (Jay-Z reference, for those of you not well-versed in hip hop).  As a result, I just really like spending time with her–and not just because she’s my daughter.  She’s imaginative.  She’s clever.  She’s thoughtful and though-provoking.  While she’s still susceptible to everything that a four-year old is going to do (i.e., the occasional tantrum and irrational behavior), she’s still a joy to be around.    And for good measure, she manages to pull these surprises that make you think she’s going on 14, not 4.

Last month, Iris wasn’t playing nicely with her sister and, after getting scolded by her mother, she started to throw a tantrum. Before it became a full meltdown, I extracted her from the situation.  I took her upstairs and gave her a really stern lecture.  As she stopped crying and started to listen, I saw the words soak in.  Not to the point where she wasn’t going to do it again (unfortunately, you can never completely snuff out certain behaviors–especially when they involve the requirement of continuous sibling civility), but at least to where she was understanding why it was wrong.  In the end, she said "I’m sorry Daddy".  Genuine contrition.  Wow.  And I said, "OK, sit down here for a little bit and think about what you did before you go downstairs."  I headed into my room next door to take care of some stuff.   Three minutes later, I hear a noise.  It was a high-pitched "woof".  I look over at the door and peeking into the room was a small puppet of a dog waving hi to me.  It might’ve been the funniest thing I had ever seen.  She had just gotten the puppet the day before at an event we went to and we named it "Gromit" (the name we will give any and every dog we ever get, in honor of the star of the "Wallace and Gromit" animations which, while she hasn’t seen, she has heard about several times).  Apparently, Gromit wanted to say he was sorry.  She waited an appropriate amount of time and then used humor to diffuse a tense situation.  That’s something I would’ve done.  She peered into the room behind the dog, smiled, and then came running in to give me a hug.  It wasn’t a "I’m so cute, so you’ll let me get away with murder, right?" hug.  It was a "I heard what you said Daddy and I’m sorry.  Can we be friends again?" hug.  I reminded her again really quickly of how I expected her to behave the rest of that day and that she wasn’t off the hook.  She said she understood and she followed-through that day with flying colors.  While I was proud her ability to heed the lesson, what I’ll always take away from that morning was a three-year old that put on an impromptu puppet show to extend an olive branch and move on after a stern lecture.  She didn’t make a mockery of the lesson, but also understood the importance of humor and recognizing that being disciplined doesn’t change how I feel about her.  That’s not a typical maturity–not at this age.  And I’m not just talking about her maturity.  That goes for me as well.  It stinks to have to lay down the lay on the light of your life and most parents hate doing it (myself included) and some avoid it, but when she accepts the lesson and doesn’t hold a grudge, it makes me feel like I’ve done something right.  Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have another comedian in the family…

I think I am a good father.  Check that.  I know I am a good father.  Not perfect, but good.  For all the anxiousness that I had on that night four years ago, I really think I have mostly outdone myself to this point.  But as a good as I am, Iris is an even better kid.  Perhaps it’s because her mom is an even better mother.  But however it came about, I couldn’t be prouder of Iris or us as a family.  I was right to be nervous and anxious on that night four years ago–this is still the toughest job I’ve ever had.  But as I enter my fifth year blogging as a father, it’s clear that my enthusiasm and introspection for the role only grows.  While adding Robyn to the mix has only added to an even more fascinating dynamic, there’s no doubt that, as the older child, Iris’ growth will still mark the truly unique worlds of new and uncharted territory.  The good news is that I think we were re-elected, which is nice even when running unopposed.  After all, it’s usually the second term where politicians really let their agendas kick into gear.  Time to work on that dirt on her shoulders…

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