We drove away from the Nashville Zoo this afternoon with you asking me, “Daddy, why Giraffe Man? Why he there?”
I attempted to explain to you that he really likes kids and giraffes.
But that just raised even more important questions.
You evidently concluded from my answer that “Giraffe Man” sleeps in the zoo with the other giraffes but has the privilege of walking through the midst of human families at the zoo and having his picture taken with them.
We kept talking about Giraffe Man even after we got home.
I’m pretty sure you want him to join us for dinner in the near future.
At some point, you’re going to ask me if Elmo and Mickey Mouse and Giraffe Man are real.
That will be a sad day for me.
I love it that your imagination leads you to believe that these mutant creatures might actually be part of the real world, instead of people in costumes or controlling a puppet.
As I look at the ridiculous picture of us with Giraffe Man, I sure hope that of all random events you may or may not be remembering for life right now, that you remember this day.
It would be awesome if in a few years from now, you ask me about being at the zoo with me and seeing a giraffe person or something.
Then I can say, “Yeah, that was from when I was training for the half marathon and you and I spent a Sunday afternoon at the zoo together. I ran while pushing you in the stroller throughout the whole zoo and at the end, we had our picture made with a man (or woman) in a giraffe costume.”
I never really know what you’re actually comprehending or remembering at this age. It’s interesting to think about, though.
When I picked you up from school today, you had a giant sticker on your arm, like a sleeve tattoo.
You were pretty proud of it.
I asked you what the sticker said. Your reply:
“Pig! Pig! Pig!”
Evidently you were convinced that pink kitty was actually a pink pig.
I let you believe it.
Somewhat related was the little sticker on your chest of an open can of tuna fish.
When I asked you what that was about, you explained to me:
“I think it’s for the cow… he drinks it, maybe?”
There’s actually a pretty good chance that neither you nor I will ever really know why you came home with those extremely random stickers today.
(I’ll probably forget to ask your teacher tomorrow.)
But not so randomly, the event reminded me of what I consider to be one of the best songs ever written: “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” by Green Day.
It came out half my life ago, when I was only 16.
Here’s an excerpt of it:
“So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time.
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth it was worth all the while.”
My interpretation of the song is that it’s important to appreciate the mundane, seemingly pointless, average days; as they serve as a bookmark to life… to the good ole days.
That we should do our best to capture these somewhat weird memories as they happen. And that we should also hold our current selves accountable to our former selves, in an attempt to apply what we learn from life.
(“Dead skin ” is a reference to the fact our bodies’ cells constantly are regenerating themselves.”)
So while certain days may seem like the most forgettable ever, I’ve learned that when you’re looking for it, there’s always something that made that day different than any other day you’ve ever lived.
For example, I’m sure nothing else amazing or interesting happened today in my life.
But you came home with these goofy, ridiculous stickers on you. And just by me capturing that fact in history, this seemingly mundane day stands out.
Honestly, had I not mentioned this event to you today, and made an effort to snap a few quick pictures of it, essentially it would be the same as if it never happened.
There is a lot of behavior of the fictional character, first introduced in the 1983 movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, that I do not wish to replicate.
However, he does possess a quality I very much admire. It’s the fact that, with pride as a husband and father, he ultimately remains optimistic and adventurous on family vacations.
Yeah, that’s not necessarily me right now… but I’m working on it.
I’ve said it before, it’s hard for me to not be in control. It’s how I’m wired.
But on a family vacation, so little is in my control, especially when it comes to your sleeping arrangements. And if you don’t sleep well, I don’t sleep well. Then we’re both really grouchy the next day!
This may sound “out there,” but I have recently started practicing the art of meditation. It’s actually been very helpful to me.
I’ve learned to focus on what I can control versus what I can’t.
Turns out, my attitude and my perception of reality are what I can control the most.
And now, I’m applying my meditation principles in everyday life; not just on family vacations.
I find a quiet moment and place at some point each day and “focus on nothing,” clearing my head of un-dealt with concerns.
In the process, I realize so much of what I let bother me is actually rooted in fear. It’s ultimately fear that I won’t get to relax and have a peace of mind. It’s fear that I won’t get my way or be happy… or get a break.
But if I accept that a family vacation is not a true vacation, but instead, a concentrated effort to spend time with family without the distraction of work and school, then it’s easier for me to have the right mindset.
It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.
Honestly, this mantra has efficiently helped my attitude as a parent.
I also try to remember this quote attributed to Jim Henson:
“The attitude you have as a parent is what your kids will learn from more than what you tell them. They don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.”
This reminds me of an article I read recently about Shawn Achor, known as “Dolphin Dad,” who promotes the idea that kids learn to focus and react the way their parents teach them; including the frequency of laughter and smiling that takes place in a household, as modeled by the parents.
He believes the attributes of successful parenting are demonstrated in dolphins; because they are playful, social, and intelligent. In essence, happier parents make happier kids.
For me, at least, I can’t be happy, especially on a family vacation, if I’m focused on what will make me happy.
I have to think the opposite: What will make everyone else happy? What will it take to lose my ego and therefore lose what limits me? How can I sacrifice to make this trip memorable for everyone, instead of one we will all later wish we could forget?
Plus, I have to remind myself of the words of Clark Griswold: “This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun.”
We’ll be taking a mini family vacation in October. I think I’m actually ready for the challenge now…
While the writers of 20/20 are still patting themselves on the back for Friday night’s segment, “D Is For Dad And Dumb,” in which the advice for dads for Father’s Day was “don’t be an idiot,” I have meanwhile witnessed a different version of reality.
For this Father’s Day weekend, I have seen Facebook flooded with pictures of my friends’ dads. Despite being on Facebook since 2005, I never remember a Father’s Day so obviously consumed with people celebrating their dads.
In the midst of the “dad traffic” today, I also saw this really cool quote by Reverend Billy Graham:
“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”
Despite the reinforced stereotype in media that dads are as about as respectable as Homer Simpson, most people in my version of the real world identify the concept of dad as an honorable thing.
Not to mention, the dads I know in real life have better things to do than to spend much time or energy worrying about how people outside of their nuclear family view them. (As a daddy blogger, I might personally be an exception?)
The dads I know put their family before their own needs and wants, on a daily basis. And that’s normal. It’s not something they talk about. They just do it.
Whether 20/20 ever gets the courage and/or integrity to address the quiet and sophisticated strength of dads in the real world, I don’t know.
It’s funny. I honestly can’t think of one time growing up that my dad ever did or said anything selfish. He only gave and sacrificed for our family the whole time.
That’s the way I have always thought of him and always will.