Two years and two months ago when you were born, we moved away from Nashville where Mommy and I had secure jobs and a great network of friends.
Why? Because life in the big city was too busy for us. We felt so starved for quality time, that we wanted to expose you to a slower pace of life.
So we moved to my hometown in Alabama, where, guess what? We were unemployed for the majority of our 8 months there. Sure, we had plenty of quality time, but it wasn’t really quality time because we weren’t actually making any money to justify our existence.
As your dad, it devastated me, knowing that I brought you into this world, only to not be able to provide for you.
Obviously, we moved back to Nashville, got even better jobs than we had before we left, and now life is wonderful.
Except for that one thing: Finding quality time for our family is still a struggle.
Mommy and I both work full-time, plus I have a part-time job. While your parents are at work, you spend nearly all of your waking hours with paid professionals and your peers at daycare.
Granted, it shows. You’re highly socialized: You know how to eat with proper utensils, you use the potty at school, and you don’t suffer from separation anxiety.
Yet Mommy and I have about 20 quality minutes together with you on weekdays, if we’re not counting getting you ready for school and getting you ready for bed.
We really do have so little time with you. Sure, we’ve got the whole weekend with you…
That’s when we buy groceries, clean the house, take the recycling, catch up with friends, and go to church; all based around your nap schedule.
If we were in Europe, I guess things would be different. I just read this article in The New York Times calledWhat We Have Less Of, by Paul Krugman:
“So what we have is a situation in which American families have more stuff, but they have managed to afford that stuff only by being two-income families, with ever less family time — unlike their European counterparts, who have gained in shorter hours and vacations what they lost in stay-at-home wives.”
It’s a nice thought, to actually have a comfortable amount of quality time, as a family. We tried that and couldn’t afford it.
Last week I experienced a huge milestone moment in fatherhood: My son got his first ball!
Well, almost. It was actually his stuffed giraffe toy; but either way, I threw it to him, and he caught it.
This is something I have been practicing with him for months now. Whether it’s a miniature football, soccer ball, tennis ball, or just a cheap inflatable made-in-China ball from the $1.08 bin at Wal-Mart, I throw it to Jack every time we play.
Usually, he just gets hit in the head, or face, or chest, then laughs.
But after throwing all his toy balls at him one right after another, I reached for his toy giraffe, which was the closest toy in reach, and threw it to him like a ball.
And Jack caught it!
I was, and still am, so proud of him. I’m not over it yet. It was as magical as the first time he said “Bye bye Dada.”
Being his athletic mentor is something I’m very excited about.
This past weekend we spent some time in one of the little fenced-in basketball practice courts at our church.
Jack already knew he was supposed to throw the basketball in the hoop as soon as I handed him a ball.
He would run up and stand underneath the net, look up at it, calculate his throw, then throw the ball up at the net.
Granted, the ball only went up in the air about 2 inches each time, but Jack kept trying every time to throw that ball in the hoop.
I admired his heart. It was charming to see.
With all this being said, my family is not actually big into watching sports. However, we know who our team is:
The University of Alabama. Yes, the Crimson Tide.
Sure, I was born and raised in Alabama. Yes, from infancy, my uncle made sure I always had Roll Tide clothing to wear; as he now does with Jack.
But it’s not just because Alabama is my home state or because I was born into a Roll Tide family.
It’s because Alabama is clearly the best college football team.
Sometimes it’s cool to root for the underdog, but when it comes to college football, I’d rather just be a fan of the obvious legendary, champion team instead.
I like how in Jack’s day care center, he and his pal Sophie are the only Alabama fans. (Jack has an Alabama jersey and Sophie has an Alabama cheerleading uniform.
His teachers have (jokingly?) made me aware that they don’t like to see him bring his red cup with the Alabama mascot on it.
They have threatened to replace it with a University of Tennessee one instead.
Jack is 7 months older than his cousin Calla; my sister’s daughter who was born last June. I think he’s still trying to figure out how to react to her.
Last weekend as we were visiting my family in Alabama during Easter, I paid special attention to the two of them. I tried to imagine what Jack was thinking:
“Is she a fellow toddler citizen? Not quite yet.
Is she a puppy? Maybe.
What am I supposed to do with her? She keeps staring at me.
Why does she keep touching me? Why does Daddy look upset every time I start to reach back at her?
This is weird, man.”
For me, as Jack’s dad, watching him try to socialize with his very feminine little cousin was kind of like hoping your dog doesn’t bite someone else’s smaller dog at a park.
Fortunately, I think he realizes that she is no threat. That became evident to me when we were hanging out in the storm shelter and Calla stuck her fingers up to the side of his eye, then plopped her leg up over his. He didn’t move; he just sat there, confused.
It was like in an Eighties’ sitcom where someone knows they’re about to get pie-faced but instead of moving out of the way, they just stand there and take it.
By the end of the weekend, I think Jack began to assume she really is a baby friend. They read a book together and then had a lot of fun out on the swings in the backyard.
As many pictures that have been taken of Jack in a swing, none of them have ever been featured on The Dadabase because Jack doesn’t look like he’s having any fun; just very stoic.
This is the exception. Jack’s cousin doesn’t walk or talk yet like he can, but she is able to show him how to have fun; even if she is a girl.
This year’s traditional Easter pictures were taken in my sister’s storm shelter; and Jack just went along with it, not knowing any different. Though I admit, he looks pretty intense in the picture above.
I think it’s safe to say, we may have very well started a new family tradition for Jack; as random as it is.
While spending the weekend in Alabama with my family, my sister wanted to make sure we checked out the new storm shelter that she and her husband just got installed behind their house. (A year ago around this time, while we were living there, we had to flee across the Georgia state line because tornadoes caused the power to go out for the whole city.)
So Easter morning, after we gave our kids their Easter baskets, we opened the hatch (yes, like on Lost) and all descended six feet into the earth; to test out the storm shelter.
Somehow during the process, my dad ended up with a camera and did his best to capture a couple of shots of the glorious event. Between the two shots, mostly everyone was smiling and looking at the camera.
I already know that 10 years from now, the thing I will remember most about Easter 2012 is testing out my sister’s storm shelter. Jack won’t remember it, but I’m pretty sure a new family tradition has been born.
In a few years, as we step down into the white abyss for the current family Easter photo, I’m sure he’ll ask me, “Daddy, why do we always go down here to take our picture? Why not outside in the yard like most families?”
The truth is, I won’t have a real good answer for him. Because like most good memories that make for good stories, this wasn’t planned. So much of life is just simply showing up and participating. A lot of times, from there, something interesting is bound to happen. Especially when we’re surrounded by family.
Note: It has recently been brought to my attention that based on the picture below, a theory has been formed that I caused a stinky situation in those confined spaces. I officially dispel this rumor. It was a mere coincidence that my wife happened to be covering her mouth as I apparently did my best impression of Robert De Niro.
But I will say, give it a few years, and Jack will definitely be the guilty, stinky culprit.
Pictured from left: My mom, my son Jack, my sister, my dad, myself, my wife Jill, my brother-in-law, and lastly, my niece.
As our son Jack is approaching his first birthday on November 16th, my wife and I are doing our best to help him transition into eating solid foods. After all, he has eight teeth now so he might as well be using them.
The thing is, he doesn’t really have an appetite for much more than bananas and wheat bread. Granted, he did take a bite of a styrofoam cup last weekend… and I assume he swallowed it.
It’s weird having to train your kid: “Cheese, good. Styrofoam, bad.”
But that’s where we’re at. In the midst of this, we’re still unpacking from our move back into our townhouse in Nashville. On a recent fateful Thursday, my wife brought us home some leftover boxed lunches from where she works at Vanderbilt University.
While we normally don’t have chips in the house, there was a small bag of plain Baked Lay’s potato chips in each of our free lunches. So maybe for the sake of curiosity; or maybe more in an attempt to entertain ourselves, we gave him a Baked Lay’s potato chip to try out. And this is what happened:
There are so many hilarious things about this 39 second video clip and they are all very subtle. It’s the kind of clip you really need to watch at least three times before you start understanding why it’s so funny and entertaining.
First off, he’s sitting on a box like an old man; or as my sister phrased it, “like a bumpkin.” He very carefully takes each bite of the chip, then looks over to my wife for approval every time.
Thirteen seconds in, he makes a face that says, “Kinda sour, but not too shabby.”
My favorite part about it is when he looks over at my wife the third time, 23 seconds into the clip, like he’s about to say something but then instantly decides against it.
It’s as if he stopped eating to convey, “Hey, I really like this thing.” But then he was afraid if he did, we would take the chip away from him because it’s not as healthy as the vegetables and fruit we normally give him to eat.
Oh, and the crumb on his lip! Classic.
I do want to take this moment to invite you to the official Facebook fan page for The Dadabase, which doubles as my son’s official fan page on Facebook. By joining, you’ll see exclusive pictures and videos of Jack before I ever write about them here on Parents.com; if they even do make it to The Dadabase.
So in other words, you’ll get exclusive content about my son Jack; plus, you’ll be notified immediately every time I publish a new post on The Dadabase because you’ll see the link on your news feed.