What Got Into Him?

Warren Dunes
It's a big dune. And it was too hot to scale it on this particular day.

Colin cracks me up something fierce.

Today, we went to Warren Dunes in Michigan, and the entire way there he was going on and on about how he refused to go in the water. If anyone mentioned water or swimming or waves or Lake Michigan or dihydrogen monoxide, he would yell out, “I’m not going in the water!” Heather suggested he might change his mind. Colin insisted, “I don’t want to change my mind!”

We got it, Colin. You’re not going in the water. I thought Heather might snap because he wouldn’t. Stop. Saying it.

So the first thing he did upon arrival at the beach? He ran away from us, straight into the water, where he stayed for about an hour. Raising this kid is going to be fun. Well, it already is.

When we left the beach and headed to the parking lot, Colin (and Addison) insisted on something else, though this was of the wantingto actually do something variety. Colin couldn’t wait to go on

The Hippo waterslide
Estimated height: 6 billion feet

the big bouncy thing. Only the big bouncy thing wasn’t for bouncing, it was a gigantic water slide. A gigantic, inflatable water slide. In the past, Colin has tended to share my abject fear of heights, so when he came upon the apparently wobbly plastic steps leading up the mountainous chute of watery doom fun, I figured he would turn away shivering and refusing to set foot on even the lowest step.

And then he climbed it. The guy manning the stairs had to hold him back until it was his turn. Colin climbed the stairs so fast (and pushed past the slowpokes waiting at the top) that by the time I got to the other side to take his picture, I heard someone say, “Ha, look at this kid!” as a squealing blond-headed ball of glee whizzed by.

We let him and Addison go again and he cut in line again so quickly I missed the photo op then, too. Now, I wasn’t surprised that Addison was willing to do this. He would jump out of a plane onto this slide without being asked twice. I did get some video of Addison’s second turn down the Hippo. Well, it was about the second half of his second trip down. It’s not really worth the upload, but trust me . . . they both had lots of fun. And the slide really was 6 billion feet tall. Give or take a few billion feet.

The point is this: something about the call of the water turned my three-, wait, no, four-year-old son into a fearless bundle of derring-do. So now I’m officially the chicken of the family. I guess I’m cool with that. I just wish this whole kids-growing-up thing would slow down a bit.


Role Model

It’s funny, Addison’s going on a field trip today. And it’s not the type where they go across town and look at flowers or pumpkins or Christmas trees. It’s the kind where he’s got to ride in a bus for an hour. A lot of parents (and maybe one of the ones in this house) are pretty nervous about sending their kids so far away, but I’m not at all. Should I be? Eh, he’s fine. The truly frightening moments for me come when he’s with me.

One of the scariest realizations I’ve ever come to as a father was when I saw how determined Addison was to imitate me. I would make him laugh, he’d try to make other people laugh. I like the Cubs, he’d say he liked the Cubs. He’d wake me in the morning to see I slept without a shirt, off went his shirt. I’d lose my temper, he’d do the same. It’s not always cute.

By the time Colin came around, I knew the drill. I had to stay on my best behavior at all times. (Right. That happens.) But I knew that there was a strong possibility there would be two mini-me’s running around. Only I was dead wrong. Colin doesn’t imitate me (not nearly as much as I expected). No, Colin . . . imitates Addison. Addison likes Transformers, Colin loves Transformers. Addison sleeps with his sleeping bag on his bed, Colin does the same. Addison plays games on the Wii, Colin watches intently. (Sometimes this flattery annoys the living crap out of Addison, but that’s another story.)

Basically, seeing someone who patterns himself after me develop a behavior clone of his own reminds me of this development from the movie Multiplicity, in which Michael Keaton’s character, Doug, discovers that one of his clones has cloned a clone.

I don’t mean Colin puts pizza in his wallet. It’s just that now I’m realizing that any personality defects I may have passed on to Addison are only going to multiply as Colin learns to imitate them. This probably means I’m going to have to actively involve myself in my sons’ lives to try to help them develop normally or something. I should get on that.

Passive Observation

He cuts paper now. If you had any idea how many times he’s asked for
and been denied the use of scissors, you’d know it’s a pretty big deal.

There are milestones of development only a parent notices. Or cares about. Sleeping through the night, first words, learning to walk, potty training—these are things a parent’s friends and family members express genuine joy about when the kid finally achieves success (or frustration when the process isn’t going so well). I get more excited about less obvious stuff.

Like syntax and grammar.

Yesterday, Colin pretty stubbornly demanded that he watch a Veggie Tales movie in the van. On the way to church. As we left church. Maybe during church. The answer was always No. But he persisted in his pleas for  Lord of the Beans. Even the prospect of getting Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t help.

He said, “I don’t want donuts to be eaten. I want movies to be watcheded.”

The dude likes to add an extra -ed to the ends of words, but I was actually pretty impressed with his unorthodox use of the passive voice. I’ve never heard him use that phrasing before, and it gave a completely different feel to his demands. He wasn’t asking just for himself. It was as though, for the sake of the state of the universe, he wanted things to be a certain way. He wanted to live in a world where movies get watched and donuts go undisturbed.

Maybe I’m embellishing his verbal intentions just a bit, but he’s the one who said it. There had to be a reason. That’s my best guess.

But this isn’t the kind of thing anybody else cares about. I mean, it’s not going in his baby book. It’s going on this blog, but I hardly think it will cause anyone to say, “When did our kids start using the passive voice?” I doubt with all my spirit this will make anyone feel jealous (and any milestone worth two bits will stoke the green flames of envy in other parents).

It’s just something I noticed because I’m Colin’s dad. And because I’m a dork.

Look, Your Worshipfulness . . .

This girl knew how to wear her some shoes.
There was a princess party at our house on Saturday. Rapunzel’s a princess, right? Our niece Rosalie turned 5. Hooray for 5. Hooray for Rosalie. Hooray for princesses.
Hooray for dancing.
She whips her hair back and forth.
The dancing was probably the most fun part. That and reclaiming my testosterone-infused lair from the Land of Pink.
Colin: Big fan of dancing.
Addison, too. Dancing, swords, and major air, make a surprisingly good combination.

Awesome Toy: DO NOT TOUCH!

We have a toy that gets assembled no more frequently than semiannually. It’s not the Big Loader or the Big Big Loader (both of which exist). No, it’s the Big Big BIG Loader. It’s not very hard (for an adult) to put together and get working. Addison could probably do it on his own by now. But it was Colin who wanted to break it out this time, his first truly conscious experience of it.

Once everything’s in place, it’s actually pretty fun to watch. Two front loaders (or scoop lifts), a dump truck, the top loader thingamajig (I’m not exactly a construction vehicle expert), and a whole series of machines that do some pretty complicated things for a toy intended for children three years and older.

Colin loves it. He can’t stay still or quiet while he plays with it. But he also can’t play with it. He dances around following the truck, narrates the action, and positively glows as the action unfolds. But if he touches anything, the whole process breaks down.

Being an active learner who loves to be part of the action and use his hands and physically engage his environment, Colin doesn’t do super well with just standing by and watching. So, while this toy is something he loves, I kind of hate for him to love it. If he’s near it, it will break. The well-oiled machine will not work. The system will become chaos.

But when I walk into the room and say, “Oh no, it’s broken again!” he just smiles as big as his face can stretch and says, “Let’s fix it!”

And that’s just a great way to look at life, so he wins.

From Bears to Tears (try not to let that rhyme)

The risk of building anything is the fear that it will fall.

On Sunday, Addison cried. Three times. Three. Separate. Times.

No, seriously, this was about 10 seconds later. Addison totally saw it coming.

The first time was immediately after the Bears lost to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. Through the entire second half he had been begging to play Wii, but when the game was over he disappeared. I figured he had given up. A few minutes later, I heard the whimpering.

He had buried his head in the pillows of the guest room bed. He was sobbing. I asked if he was okay. He was not.

“I wanted the Bears to win!” He was as angry as he ever has been when denied Wii time, which is pretty much the zenith of his anger.

“I know. Me too.” Pause. Realization. Peace. “But they lost. I’m sad, too.” It felt good for me to say that. Any angst I had over the loss (and their was plenty) had dissipated at just admitting the fact and trying to help him do the same.’

“I hate the Packers. They’re stupid.” Here’s where it was my job to tell him we don’t use words like hate and stupid and that we have to learn to lose graciously.

“Yeah, they are. But they won.”

“I wish Sam Shields [who caught the game-clinching interception] wasn’t even on the field. And B. J. Raji is a big, fat stupid-head.” Heather would later inform Addison that it isn’t polite to call people fat, but I stood with Addison in this case; not because it’s polite, but come on, the guy weighs 350 pounds, and that’s part of his job. Let’s just face fats. Not a typo.

“I know. But we have to lose with grace and dignity, Addison. They won, and it’s not like a video game where we can retry until we get it right. It’s over, and we have to accept it.” Again, this felt good to say, and I was really hoping it was a lesson he could learn with some completeness much earlier than I did (seeing as though I was essentially just reaching that awareness myself).

It looked like it hit him, like something profound had dawned. And he asked me the question of timeless importance: “Can I play Wii?”

I’ll accept that as moving on.

The second bout of tears was a direct result of Colin running off with Addison’s glasses. Addison needs his glasses. For seeing. Normally it doesn’t produce tears (although the retaliation often does). I figured he was just a little raw. Poor kid. I don’t like seeing him cry, but I did remind him that sometimes it’s good to cry just to express the sadness and acknowledge its significance. Back to Wii.

The third time, though, was the most troubling. Heather was still helping clean up after a party we had long since departed (around halftime of the aforementioned football disaster). The boys and I were eating dinner. Mid-bite, Addison broke out into sobs again. I figured it was the Bears grief resurfacing. Nope.

“I miss Mommy!”

“Me too, buddy, but she’ll be back soon.”

“I hope she makes it.”

I assured him that she would. I also told him that I have thoughts like that, too, sometimes. I didn’t go into detail beyond that, but I do get afraid of car accidents and sickness and miscellaneous acts of God. I convince myself it’s just foolish imagination, but whenever Heather and the boys return from any absence whatsoever, they bring a rush of convincing relief along with them. Prior to that rush, though, Addison needed more reassuring.

So we talked about what we love about Mommy. That she’s so full of love we can’t take it. That she has a heart so big and strong and generous that we always feel like we’re the most important thing in the whole world. That her hugs are magical. It helped. We were happy. But we were very, very happy when she got home.

We all (and if you don’t, please nod along as if you totally do) fear missing out on what we wish for and losing what we have. Even seven-year-old boys. And thirty-five-year-old boys. I was glad to be reminded that it’s okay to cry about it and just as important (but not necessarily more so) to move on.

And this morning, I was pleased to see how Addison had chosen to move on. Three days later. Last night when I checked on him, he had put his glasses back on. That usually means he’s been reading. This morning, Heather found a copy of I Love You Forever under his pillow. You know the one. It’s about holding on to who you love, not to stop them from moving on, but because you’ll never really let go.

Of football games, yes. Of Mommy, no way. Regardless of what it is we might lose, though, that’s no excuse not to keep dreaming, keep loving, and keep ready for the tears that are all too certain. It’s cool, though, they’re worth it.

Who’s On First?

It’s pretty sad that the only things motivating me to blog here are TV (Lost and Idol) and contests, so here’s a real piece of family stuff. A week or two ago, Addison and I performed in his elementary school’s talent show. It was a lot of fun, even the endless rehearsals of “Who’s on First” to which we subjected ourselves.
The night of the performance I had been drumming into Addison’s head that only I would have a microphone and that he’d need to project just like before—I would take care of the mic. Right before we went on, he was begging me to let him hold a mic, and I repeatedly told him no. Sure enough, right before we went on, he was handed a mic, and the rest was hilarity.

Since we’ve finished, Addison hasn’t wanted to reproduce the whole routine, but anytime anyone says “I don’t know,” we’ll both say, “Third base!” We’ll do intentionally, too, with one or the other asking what the capital of some state or far-off country is. Colin’s gotten into the act, too. Yesterday, he said, “What’s the capital of . . . third base?”

What indeed, Colin. What indeed.

Beach + Blizzard = Pure Summer Joy

The night didn’t start off particularly well. Neither of the boys ate their dinner. They wouldn’t sit still. They wouldn’t stay quiet. They didn’t show any signs of wanting to make good on our plans to go to the beach after dinner, scampering around the back yard, cranky, tired.

We corralled them. Swimsuits were donned. Beach stuff was packed. The van was loaded. Off we went to Kimmel Beach. Wait, we missed the turn. Okay, now we’re on our way to Kimmel Beach. Just have to find the parking lot. No, this ain’t it. Aaaand, here we are. Suddenly it all turned. Everything from then on was pure magic.
Kimmel Beach is just secluded enough. Not a ton of people go hunting for it, especially in the evening. But there are enough people that you don’t have to be entirely paranoid about sharks. The big benefit, though, was the feeling that the four of us had about an acre of beach to ourselves. Easy to let them have fun. Easy for them to splash without collateral stranger damage. Easy to keep an eye on them at all times.
And the keeping an eye on them part was the best. Colin tried to jump over waves (funny). Addison rode the waves in his life-jacket (a little fun, but scary). We all got to watch a bunch of guys doing some kind of boarding . . . not wake boarding or paddle boarding or boogie boarding . . . I want to say water boarding, but I know that’s not right. Anyway, we saw guys riding small surfboard type things right along the shore, and it was fun.
Then we ran up and down the face of a mini-dune a dozen or so times, taking breaks to watch the sun think about setting as we caught our collective breath. So much fun. So much sand trapped in places it had no business hiding. So much relief not even carrying around a camera.
After dusting off as much sand would agree to dislodge and changing into slightly drier clothes, we got into the van and Colin laid these pearls of wisdom on Heather’s ears: “Thanks for going to the beach, Mommy.” For a two-year-old kid, that’s like a 500-word essay on how much he loves you.
We were so going to Dairy Queen.
So we got ice cream. The boys sat still, but not in a boring way. Just in a “Heck, yeah, I want ice cream” way. Maybe there was a hint of, “We’re so content, why in the world would we cause trouble?” in there as well. Addison danced to a smooth jazz version of “You Wanna Be Starting Something,” but never left his seat. Both boys were quiet. It was pure magic.
The only real tension of the night was between my sensible side and the side of me that makes decisions. The conversation went like this:
Sensible: Just get a cone.
Insatiable: (Dirty look)
Sensible: Fine, get a small Tagalong Blizzard. Those are really good.
Insatiable: Medium. Final offer.
Sensible: Come on, look at your stomach! You’re lucky I’m letting you have a small.
So while my Sensible side curled up in a bruised, broken ball of shame, I enjoyed the medium Tagalong Blizzard and the most enjoyable evening of the year. (Don’t get me wrong, the Blizzard wasn’t the highlight, but like I said, I didn’t bring a camera. {Okay, forgive me . . . I really like the Tagalong Blizzard. [Alright, Sensible and Insatiable are back at it again, so I should just stop typing.]})
Thank God for simple pleasures.

Poppy the Puppy Song

Colin: Sing “Poppy the Puppy” song!

Me: (thinking) There is no “Poppy the Puppy” song. It’s a lift-the-flap book you turned into a rip-the-flap book.
Me: (out loud) Addison, make up a “Poppy the Puppy” song.
Addison: (3 seconds later, to the tune of “Five Little Ducks”) Poppy the Puppy loved to play / all, all, all, all, all, all day. / He didn’t know a lot of stuff / but he liked to say, “Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff.”
Colin: Good song, Addison!
Good song indeed.