"Seven Father's Days"    [ 12 ]   
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June 2010

This is the best picture of parenting I have ever seen: a grown-up monster (likely clueless about a great many things) espouses Great Wisdom to its enamored little one, who in turn swallows every grunt, snort, and slobber. Children are hard-wired to trust us adults, soaking up every bone-headed thing we say without question, whether we're aware of it or not. Worse still, they learn to mirror what we do in and with our lives, regardless of whatever words we rain down upon them. They pattern their own ways after ours right out in front of the whole wide world to see. Of course, in time they grow up to be grown-up monsters in their own right, and end up with little ones whom they then teach How The World Turns . . .

 parenthood

 

Father's Day, 1991:
A few days earlier I had proposed to my girlfriend, who had thrown her arms around me and responded with, "Oh, yes, Tom - I will marry you!" She wouldn't let go even to see the ring I held aloft behind her. But now it was Father's Day, and I found myself challenged on a primal level in considering how to balance her desire for children/family with my absolute panic at the prospect. This had been a topic we had discussed at great length, of course, but the monumental task of teaching, guiding, and providing for an Entirely New Human Being all the way to adulthood seemed beyond overwhelming to me. Yet this day of all days – Father's Day – all my studies on the subject, the community of church, my prayers, and a timely sermon – all of it served to galvanize my faith and resolve. A sign I had scribbled in my journal took shape in my mind's eye, the words began to change:

 sign 1991

  • CHILDREN OPTIONAL
  • CHILDREN INEVITABLE
  • CHILDREN WANTED!

I grabbed a marker in my imagination, however, and scribbled "someday" in the lower right corner of that sign. And that was how I came to terms, initially, with my terror of raising children and someday becoming a father. My fiancée showered me in love letters spelling out her timeless devotion and passions for me as our wedding date drew near. We agreed to hold off on children for five or six years so that I might establish myself writing a couple novels.  ~  We were pregnant within a year.

 

Father's Day, 2005:
Leaping forward into the Future —( because it's cool, and you can do that when you're older with memories spanning decades )— my wife decided to cast about for 'other pastures' with a once-trusted friend of mine, leaving me to stumble into middle-age as a suddenly single father of three wide-eyed girls. During our 13-year marriage, I had learned to Parent On Purpose as the experts advise, and made a point to engage and encourage our children according to their natural propensities. Yet again I found myself terrified at the prospect of "being a Dad" — being a Single Dad, to be precise. Raising children is challenging enough when you're married. Those challenges compound exponentially when you do it alone.

At their ages (12, 9, 5) I decided to guide them toward even more ambitious long-term goals. This weekend, I led them on our bicycles, three little ducklings in a row pedaling behind me, to open savings accounts at our bank. This was followed by a fried chicken picnic and an afternoon at our nearby public pool "Daddy-surfing" — That's where you (Dad) drop to all fours in the shallow end of the pool, and your kids take turns attempting to keep their balance standing on your back as you advance across the pool underwater. For some reason, they thought this was the greatest thing since Nintendo, jostling and laughing in the water to be next. This little game also gets around the edgy lifeguards who fly into a whistle-blowing panic if you hoist a kid halfway out of the water in the center of the pool. You can't launch your giggling monkeys into gravity-defying somersaults up out of the water at a public pool anymore, by order of some universally enforced Paranoia vs. Fun lawsuit. That evening, I read another chapter or two from "Peter and the Star Chasers" for them. We read a lot together as a family, my skills at adopting all manner of vocal styles and accents gaining credibility over time.

Sunday, Father's Day proper, involved my playing keys at our church after buying a blurry-eyed McDonald's breakfast-to-go for all of us, an afternoon of fun little errands (like new bamboo shoots for our kitchen table centerpiece), and gifts of hand-drawn cards, coupons, and candy from my little chicklettes.  :-)  Danielle made brownies. Then I cut the girls loose with markers on some old white t-shirts of mine to draw up some fun illustrated sleepwear. We watched "The Miracle Maker" and "Millennium Actress" together, read some more, and I tucked them all into bed . . . then fell apart in private once I was sure they had all gone to sleep.

 

Father's Day, 2006:
This one was epic. We spent the weekend up in Sedona, scored a hotel right next to Slide Rock State Park, and spent that Saturday with our dearest friends splashing around and just relaxing in the majestic scenery in the very heart of Oak Creek Canyon. We all had dinner at the Red Planet Diner. Then, while our friends had to return to the sweltering valley of the sun, we kicked back on the porch of our rustic hotel amid singing crickets and fleet moths beating softly against overhead lamps, to read a few chapters in our complete series "Narnia" tome. The girls also took great delight in watching me unwrap a box within a box within a box (etc) until I found a Father's day animal book and their hand-crafted cards. The next day on our way home (Sunday), we took our Isuzu Trooper out onto a few 4x4 roads, marveling at a sky-clouding forest fire that had cropped up along a distant ridge!

 Narnia

 Monkey Ball

Father's Day, 2007:
Danielle had a friend (Layne) spend the night Friday, so she tagged along with us for a great summer day at SunSplash! We drag pretty much anyone along who wishes to join our adventures - the more the merrier! Back at home later, sun-kissed & spent – relaxed – we all played this deranged Xbox game called "Monkey Ball Deluxe", where you direct one of four happy/groovy little monkeys rolling around in a (or gliding beneath an open-hinged) transparent glass [?] ball, racing one another through a preposterous range of other-worldly obstacles. It is goofy to the extreme, and highly addictive, especially when you have 7-to-14 year old kids around. (blame the children) I was also teaching Chess to my youngest these days, so of course we had to play a few matches together. As a matter of fact, that Sunday Andrea & I sent her two older sisters off to camp together, so after playing keys at church, we spent Father's Day together just the two of us.  :-)  I took her out for Chinese food for lunch (Pei Wei), and we caught "Surf's Up" later in the afternoon. Back home we chilled out, played games, and read together until I tucked her off to bed.

 Kung Po

 Cthulhu

 

Father's Day, 2008:
This was a great summer for movies and rentals. We met our friends and their kids at a multiplex to see "Kung Fu Panda", which of course is just a blast! Returned home to continue knocking through the series "Freaks and Geeks". After playing at church again this Sunday, once more on a Father's Day I sent Jessi off to camp.  :-\  So Danielle & Andrea & I relaxed all day —( taking it easy.. fun and relaxation - that's what Father's Day is all about, right? )— watching "Madagascar" and "Curse of the Were-Rabbit". Later, after the girls had crashed, I caught a really fun and imaginative DIY interpretation of H. P. Lovecraft's classic tale, "The Call of Cthulhu"— Another very nice, restful Father's Day!

 

 Star Trek

Father's Day, 2009:
I fell into this Father's Day weekend playing keyboards for a friend who was producing a live-recording 'praise & worship' CD at his church. Saturday morning, I made a huge breakfast for my girls: scrambled eggs & bacon, fruit & toast – the works – then took Jessi to her friend Maggie's house to celebrate her birthday party. Danielle & Andrea led me all over town looking at different dogs, potential pets for what would eventually be a short-lived exercise in Danielle's "gotta hava dog" obsession. Contrary to tradition, my girls *LOVE* Star Trek! I swear, I did not subversively lead them to it - I scored the remastered Original Series this year for my own sake of nostalgia, aiming to catch one now and then late at night when I needed a brain break. I showed "The City on the Edge of Forever" to Danielle one afternoon on a lark, and she acted like I had been holding out on her all her life! "What is this show?" she asked in amazement, and immediately shared it with Jessica. Guess who their favorite character is . . ?  Dr. Leonard McCoy!  :-D  Go figure!  So, by now we had plowed our way through all three seasons of the original series, and they were begging to watch the first movie, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" — you gotta love kids like these! Even Andrea got hooked, especially as we eased into "Next Generation" territory. Sunday was marked by the usual: playing keys for our morning church services, Shangri-La for lunch, visiting with friends and relaxing, super cool hand-crafted gifts from my kiddo's . . and I think we were starting into "24" by then . . .

 Jack Bauer

 

 Snape

Father's Day, 2010:
My chicklettes offer more sophisticated gifts as they grow older. I'm just happy to hang out together, but they insist on Getting Something or Doing Something Special. Danielle used her own money to take me out for a *fabulous* dinner at Outback Steakhouse a few days before this weekend. Jessica created an elaborate pirate-themed treasure hunt for me to explore all around the house, landing upon a treasure of Incan doubloons and four colorful bouncy balls . . one standing for each of us. (A tile-floor house is *great* for those) Andrea whipped up a five-star gourmet luncheon of seasoned & garnished Top Ramen. So on Sunday, I played both services as usual, then (after Andrea's epicurean feast) the girls took me to see "Toy Story 3" in 3D! (Outstanding Film, by the way) We also set up a hefty corner cabinet in Andrea's room, which we're slowly furnishing after our recent move, and of course I called my own father as I do each year. He's a great guy, but -(unlike his son)- he usually doesn't have much to say over the phone. Such conversations are usually brief, but poignant. It is good to have a good Dad . . yes even at this age... perhaps especially so!  My girls and I are plowing our way through all seven "Harry Potter" books these days, so we read some chapters as well this weekend. For 4½ books now, try as I might, I still cannot get Snape's vocal timbre down! . . . . then again, I doubt many people can . . .

 

So I continue to learn and adapt as a man who is a Father, enjoying every step along the way as my girls grow to become young women in the world. I have chronicled these Father's Days here not only to review our own family activities over a stretch of time after some pretty serious familial devastation, but also as a testimony to God's providence and continuing goodness in our lives. (And I have also discovered now that Chinese food plays a ritualistic role in our family traditions) In all of our travels and adventures, no one has gotten hurt, it has *always* been just a fabulous time of fun and togetherness, and often we get to bless their friends who are able to join us as well. Traveling with my children is a dream - nothing but good times, fun and restful! They creatively share their love, hugging on me all the time - their artwork hangs on my office walls and in high-visibility points throughout our home.

I consider myself a *very* blessed Daddy to have been given the gift of these three trusting, learning, growing souls! And while I certainly do understand that 'more is caught than taught' in anyone's household, I am delighted to learn that this works both ways. As they extend their spirits out into the world, I am reminded of what it looks like to Trust again, which I must admit has been a bit of a challenge since 2004. These blossoming, strong young women shine daily in my home under the covering of my care, offering in return a touch from God which pierces straight to my own heart . . . and for this I am profoundly humbled, and truly deeply grateful.

 

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