Did you happen to read all 25 posts this month on The Dadabase? Just in case you missed a day or two, I’m here to make life easier for you today. Just click on the title of a post to be magically transported to the not-so-distant past.
Jack turned one year old this month and he learned to officially walk. Reoccurring themes in November included “American perceptions of manhood” and “TV shows I despise.”
This month’s titles were consumed with countdowns: Nearly 1/3 of November’s posts contained a number followed by the word “things” or “reasons” or “ways” and/or “this dad.”
Could it be that readers are more likely to click on the title and read the post if it follows that formula? Just take a look on the right side of the screen where it says “Most Popular Posts.” I’m taking a clue from the fact that everyday at least two of the most popular ones are some kind of countdown.
Before begin your time traveling adventure, remember one more thing: Mail me your family’s holiday card so I can put in on my fridge; you will be seeing my fridge frequently in weeks to come:
From the time we found out we were going to have a baby, up until the moment we actually discovered out the gender of our child, we never questioned the fact that we were going to have a girl. It somehow simply made the most sense in our minds: We’re not into sports, we’re nearly vegetarians, and most importantly, we had had our perfect girl name picked out since before we were even married.
Then, to our hilarious amazement, we were told we were going to have a boy. We weren’t at all disappointed, just in complete shock. That huge element of surprise actually made the pregnancy that much more exciting.
Fast forward to over a year later, and now whenever a stranger sees our son in Whole Foods Market or our church, the most reoccurring phrase we hear once they take a quick look at him is, “He’s all boy!“.
This past weekend we were having dinner with some new friends, who have a daughter several months older than our son, Jack. As they were both standing up, holding onto the same toy, the girl’s mom asked us if Jack is big for his age.
My wife Jill responded, “Yeah, he’s kind of a giant: 90th percentile for height and 75th for weight.”
It’s one thing to have a boy when we were expecting a girl, but another to have the baby equivalent of a 6’4″ linebacker. Or at least Will Ferrell. I love ironic humor; it makes life so interesting.
Despite being a very creative person, it’s not easy for me to imagine having a daughter, instead of a son. Jack is all I know. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I love his deep baby voice, his grunts as I wrestle with him and chase him around on the carpet, and the way that he and I share “deep thinking time” as I carry him on walks while my wife is preparing dinner. I love him so much.
If my son were a girl, the toy basket would be full of pink toys that play girly songs. I would probably use the word “princess” a lot. And I would have a child that passes a lot less gas… I (incorrectly?) assume.
So the day may come when my wife and I have a daughter and get to use our cool secret name for her. But as for now, we don’t have a little princess. Instead, we have an adventurous Gummy Bear named Jack who is somehow the perfect balance of masculine and adorable.
The title almost makes enough sense on its own, right? If it were possible to shrink Jack down to half an inch tall and color him all red, he would make the perfect Gummy Bear. It’s that simple. Or on the flip side, if it were possible to mutate a Gummy Bear into a living human being, it would become Jack.
On most of the bags that the candy comes in, there’s a cartoon of a bear waving at the consumer, as if to say, “Well hey there, come be my friend!”. For me, Jack encompasses the assumed personality of a Gummy Bear: He’s fun, he’s friendly, and he’s cuddly.
Here lately, I’ve been noticing that Jack is a bit more cuddly than normal. Usually, he has to be a part of the action, whatever it is; it usually involves an attempt to disassemble or make a skateboard out of something, while putting it in his mouth.
To my surprise, Jack has been regularly crawling in my lap and letting me massage his shoulders. I guess he needs some relaxation from all his hard work. The more cuddly he gets, the more he becomes a Gummy Bear to me.
Of course, there is another kind of gummy bear that Jack reminds me of, one that’s spelled with an “i.” I’m referring to the 1980′s Disney cartoon with the really awesome theme song. The youngest of the group was an adventurous pink boy bear that carried around a wooden sword; his name was Cubbi.
I have Jack’s famous “tie picture” hanging up at my cubicle wall at work. Sometimes I look at it, the shape of his pastel, rainbow necktie makes me think of Cubbi and his sword.
My son is a cute, little, adventurous bear cub. And for some reason right now, I’ve got a case of the munchies…
Though Jack has been attending day care for a couple of weeks now, I still have been wondering what it would be like when he would be exposed to another little boy about his age and size, in a different environment. I had these preconceived ideas that it might be difficult for them to get along, fighting over toys. I envisioned myself cringing, just waiting for the moment when one of them would smack the other in the forehead with a wooden block or a Matchbox car.
I guess I forgot that infant boys don’t have that much testosterone, yet. Fortunately, Jack’s first encounter with a buddy wasn’t at all as I bleakly imagined it. While in Sacramento last week, we visited Jill’s childhood friend, Paula; she and her husband had their first child just a few months before Jack was born.
It was funny to observe Jack and Evan (Paula’s son) playing next to each other from the same toy box. Several times they reached for the same toy, then they would both simultaneously back off from it, as if to say, “No, it’s cool. You go ahead. You saw it first.”
If only we lived in a world with “baby subtitles,” where we adults could translate what our children are saying to us and each other.
For most of the visit, I imagined in my head what their conversations were like as they were playmates:
“So, you’re Evan? Yeah, my mom has talked a lot about you. Actually, I’ve seen a lot of your pictures on Facebook. There’s this one where you’re wearing one of those taxi cab driver hats. My mom got me one of those but I kept taking it off because I can’t stand having stuff on my head. It makes me itch.”
“Yep, I’ve heard of you too. I wonder why our moms are laughing at us right now. I’m hungry. Let’s eat. Wahhhhh!!! Waahhhh! Ehhhhh…”.
Being that Jill and Paula grew up together and remain friends despite the long distance and that they still see each other at least once a year when we fly out to California in the summer, I think it’s safe to say that Jack and Evan will grow up knowing each other too. Even if that means just one actual play date a year and in the meantime their Mommies pointing to a Facebook picture, saying, “Look, here’s your buddy.”
It’s one of the most masculine yet sensitive songs I can think of.
One of my hopes as a dad blogger is that parents will be able to identify with what is going through my head when they read my Dadabase posts; to make readers say, “That’s exactly how I feel! It’s like you’re reading my mind!” I am a guy who loves to inspire others as much as I love to be inspired; I am always ready for that next awesome quote or motivational true story.
As a guy who loves music (I own over 700 CD’s,) I am regularly a-ha’d (to be made to say “a-ha!”) by song lyrics. In fact, I think songwriting is one of the most vulnerable forms of communication and/or art that exists. I can easily write a new 400+ word entry for the Dadabase every day and never feel as exposed as I would compared to if I was writing and performing a song instead.
It was the 1995 movie Mr. Holland’s Opus that truly first exposed me to John Lennon. At the end of the movie, Mr. Holland (played by Richard Dreyfus) sings and signs the song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” by John Lennon. I am not the kind of guy that will cry when I see a sad movie. But… I will confidently admit to letting my eyes get a little bit watery when I see something truly moving- like the last five minutes of the final episode of Lost or the ending of half of the Rocky movies or heck… even Marley and Me.
Needless to say, since the first time I saw it, that scene in Mr. Holland’s Opus has always found a way to connect to the “truly moved” part of my brain. It’s not just the imperfectness and realness of how Richard Dreyfus sings the song but also because the genius of the way John Lennon’s lyrics are so cleverly played out as a disconnected father reaches out to his son.
And I know that the word “genius” is thrown around pretty loosely in the entertainment world, especially when it comes to legendary Italian-American movie directors like Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorcese whose films are known for being “groundbreaking” as well as extremely violent. But sometimes, an artist actually is genius, despite the cliché factor of the word. And since John Lennon pulled it off perfectly in “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” I feel compelled to expose the magic behind his wonderful creation.
As a father, John Lennon touched on several major elements of the father-son connection in the 114 words of the song. The first verse addresses his fatherly role of protector:
“Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monsters gone,
He’s on the run and your daddy’s here.”
I think there’s something immeasurably powerful in the phrase, “your daddy’s here.” Because no matter what our own relationship with our father was like growing up, every kid wants to know the presence of a positive, protective father. “Daddy” does have the power to scare the monster away.
Next, John Lennon touched on the importance of encouragement:
“Before you go to sleep,
Say a little prayer,
Everyday in every way,
It’s getting better and better.”
This verse is a reminder for me to pray for my son when I am inclined to worry for him instead. Additionally, John Lennon paints a positive future for his son as he focuses on things getting better as they move forward, not dwelling on past mistakes and decisions.
My favorite part of the song is the bridge, which paints not only the masculine element of adventure but also the excitement of the father looking forward to his son growing up and becoming a man with him:
“Out on the ocean sailing away,
I can hardly wait,
To see you to come of age,
But I guess we’ll both,
Just have to be patient,
Yes it’s a long way to go,
But in the meantime.”
The lyrics of the song come to a close with the final chorus refrain of “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful… beautiful boy.” And then finally John Lennon calls his son by name: “Darling Sean.” I think for the past several decades, the idea of a father kissing his son on the cheek or forehead or calling his son “beautiful” has become pretty foreign. In fact, those outward expressions of a father’s love do indeed make me think of old Italian culture I’ve seen in movies throughout my life. Blame it on the ¼ Italian blood running through my veins, but I admire those ideas enough to want to replicate them in my relationship with my own son.
The last verse contains one of John Lennon’s most famous quotes:
Before you cross the street,
Take my hand, “Life is what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans.”
I of all people know what’s like to carefully plan every year of my life, only to see a completely different reality come to fruition. (Are you like so tempted right now to copy and paste “Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans” as your Facebook status update and/or Twitter?)
“Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” which was released as a single on November 17, 1980, just a few weeks before John Lennon was killed and a few months before I was born, obviously speaks to me as a father. Looking back on past Dadabase entries, I have specifically written about the same exact aspects of the father-son relationship as John Lennon wrote about in the song:
Strength, guidance, courage, adventure, direction, and the appreciation of beauty.
The song’s subtle magic exists in these properties of manhood that we men already identify with, even if we don’t realize it. And that’s why it’s dang near impossible for a father not to relate to and love this song.