Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Running with Angels

My Mom wrote a book! Some of you may remember her from her brief stint as a blogger named Purelight. She says of her book:

It is intended for young-to-mid-teens who are at risk as runaways or who engage in other dangerous behaviors. It offers an engaging story along with hope to these kids, as well as insight to the adults who care about them. My dream is that this book will make its way into the hands of the people who need it.

I haven't got my copy yet, but I read it in its pre-published form, and I'm very proud of what she's done. Please help me in supporting an independent author. If you are involved with or know someone who is involved with a group for whom this could be a valuable resource, or if you'd like to talk to her more about her book, drop me a line, and I'll put you in touch with her.

Way to go, Mom! Again, the book is:

Running with Angels by Robbie Haden, with Jennifer Farmer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Rainy Afternoon

Jolted out of his nap by a combination of rumbling thunder, a rumbling trash truck, and a horrible wracking cough, Thumper called for me. "Daddy!" It was too soon, and he was clearly not ready to be up yet, so we sat together in my chair, with the lights off, listening to the rain and the thunder and the ticking of the clock. We both dozed and woke and dozed again. And I remembered a night some seven years ago, when I babysat a sick Robert McGee. He was, I think, about nine months old. He was feverish and unhappy and didn't want to do anything but sit with me in a rocking chair. The first couple of times he fell asleep, I tried to transfer him to the crib, but he wouldn't stand for it. So we just sat and rocked, his heat baking into me.

I've thought of that evening now and then over the intervening years, and it was in my memory a sort of pietà that represented my desire to be a parent, to be the one that little voice is calling to when he calls out for Daddy. And this afternoon I got to live it again. When he was ready, we shared an apple and some goldfish crackers, and now he's running around the house yelling, "Give it me! My chair!" So the moment is passed. But I loved it while it lingered and made a gloomy, rainy afternoon glow golden for an hour or so. Thanks, Thumper. I love you.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Save the Drama for Your... Daddy?

I keep thinking I should blog about my Stay-at-Home Dads group, then don't. Then things get even more ridiculous, and I think I should really blog about my Stay-at-Home Dads group, then still don't.

When I joined, the summer before Thumper was born, I thought it would be valuable in addressing two of my biggest fears about being a SAHD. First, I was scared about making enough money to supplement my wife's income, and I thought I could read through the group's archives and get ideas from the other guys about how they had addressed the same problem. Second, I was afraid that I would feel out of place on the playgrounds, that I would make the moms nervous with my presence. And with my own shyness issues, I knew I would have a hard time reaching out by myself. I thought built-in playdates would really fill a need for me.

Well, as with most things, my anticipation was miles off from the reality. I have gleaned no great ideas on part-time supplemental income from the group, and yet I've managed so far to make a few bucks here and there (thanks, Sis!). And I haven't really felt that out of place on the playgrounds or felt ostracized because of my sex. Some moms have even gone out of their way to engage me in conversation. Many tell me how great it is that I'm doing this. And the rest Thumper charms into talking to me. So being a member of the group hasn't been what I thought it would be.

There isn't much communication or participation in the group right now. Apparently, when the group was founded, in something like 2002 or 2003 I think, playdates would regularly draw 15 or 20 dads. They took pride in hitting a playground in force. A couple of the SAHD group's long-time members have told me how it used to be when they started, with individual dads and their kids getting treated like lepers. Moms parted like the Red Sea and even pulled their kids away from the kids of the dads. By showing up in large groups, the dads had their own community, and many feel like that high visibility made it possible for guys like me now to say that I've never experienced anything like that sort of exclusion myself because they increased awareness of Dads Taking Care of Kids.

For me, it's been nice meeting a few really good guys, and it's been nice having some pleasant conversations now and again, especially now that Thumper doesn't require quite as close of supervision as he used to. He used to really want to eat playground gravel, and he used to really want to fall off of things. He's become slightly more particular about what he'll put in his mouth, and he's drastically improved his climbing skills. Now I can actually stand in the circle of dads and participate in a conversation for a few minutes at a time. But most playdates draw only 2 or 3 dads, and many draw none at all. A few have had as many as 4 or 5, but I've never seen a group of 15 or 20 of us. Often, Thumper and I are the only ones at the scheduled playdate, and we manage to get along just fine.

The dad who volunteers to set the playdate schedule has asked for feedback on how to increase attendance. The old-timers chime in with how much fun the group used to be, and how we need to get out there in force and scare the moms again. But I never see them at playdates because their kids are all in school now, and I've never met a lot of them at all. The gist of the old guard's message is that it used to be a good group, it used to be fun, they used to be great friends, but all us new guys are doing it wrong. We're using the message board incorrectly and we're not behaving like a guerrilla army of dads, hitting the parks and driving off the moms. And they still moderate the message board, ostensibly to keep things "on-topic," but mostly to do their best to drive off new members with their cranky-old-fartedness. So a brand new member will send an introductory message saying, "Hi, this is me, this is my kid, this is what we like to do and where we live. Do any of you fellas like heavy metal?" And immediately a moderator will reply telling him that music discussions are off topic, and he should have known that already since he received the Rules of Engagement when he signed up for the group. And then the new member will say, "WTF? Screw you guys, I'm going home!"

Fun, right? And then there's all the usual email group b.s., like smartasses being rude and calling it humor, touchy people taking offense, sarcasm being misunderstood, political discussions popping up and making enemies, and just general bitchiness, cattiness, nastiness, and whining.

And that's what has surprised me most, though I don't know why it should have. I've participated in LISTSERVs and other email group communication, and it almost always comes down to hurt feelings and misunderstandings and fragmentation into various cliques eventually, mostly because in written communication it's very difficult to judge a humorous tone. And before Thumper, I read parenting blogs and heard about the murky and dangerous world of Playdate Groups with all of their intrigues. But those were Moms Groups. The problems usually centered around that one power-mad super-mom, and her evil machinations. Women can be very tough on each other. But dads? We're just a bunch of dudes hanging out. What could go wrong?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

He Looks So Small

Kiddie Acres was a blast. We had a SAHD playdate there this morning. Planes, trains, automobiles, boats, ferris wheels, and carousels. And ponies! Thumper wore a serious expression through everything, but he had a wonderful time. I think he was just processing, processing. It's a whole new world, this amusement park business.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Waiting for the Call

It's been a tough week. Aerie had foot surgery last Thursday, and she isn't happy as a mobility-impaired patient on medical leave from her job. Her boss keeps telling her she hasn't been released to light duty yet, and then giving her more projects to work on from home. You know, in the "You shouldn't be working, but there's this, that, and the other thing still to do" vein. She doesn't like being reliant on anyone, but taking care of herself while rolling around on a knee scooter and putting no weight on her foot makes everything a huge undertaking. She doesn't like taking the pain pills because she doesn't want to sleep all day. It's going to be a fun several weeks for all three of us.

Thumper and I dropped Aerie off for surgery on her other foot this morning (even more fun!), and we've been waiting for the call to come pick her up. We went to the park and played. We wandered the neighborhood examining fire hydrants. Now he's sitting in a pile of Lincoln Logs while I blog, wearing nothing but a diaper. I mean him. He's wearing nothing but a diaper. I'm fully clothed.

Sometimes this week has been difficult. Thumper's independence is expanding, which can be trying. It's manifesting as a lot of yelling and whining, by both of us. He has three recent obsessions. Well, four. The first is fire hydrants. I don't know why. When we drive, he chimes in from the back seat: "Hydrant! See it? I see it! 'Nother one? There it is! Red! 'Nother one? See it? There it is!"

The second is his penis. 'Nough said. Well, almost enough said. When I put a diaper on him, he says, "Bye, penis! Fun penis." Which is pretty entertaining, but I probably shouldn't tell you these things.

The third is removing his clothing. He doesn't want to wear clothes anymore, which is why he's sitting in a pile of Lincoln Logs in a diaper. When it's time to go pick up Aerie he will have a fit when I torture him by putting a shirt and pants on him. Shoes are OK, as long as there the new shoes.

And the fourth is Mama. Since she's been home all day every day, he's become constantly concerned with her location. "Are you coming, Mama?" is his mantra. When I take him into his room to change his diaper: "Are you coming, Mama?" To the bath: "Are you coming, Mama?" To the playground, to the store, to bed. And if the answer isn't, "I'm coming," he expresses his displeasure.

So it's a houseful of cranky folks. Yay! Want to come over?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Circle of Life Redux

Discussed here; additional photographic evidence provided by the Grandma formerly known as Purelight.

12/75 (I'm a cowboy, baby!):


Friday, April 3, 2009

Still Trying

Thumper's not onboard for this project at all.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Austin Zoo

The Austin Zoo's come a long way since the last time I was there, maybe seven or eight years ago. Their big cat collection is pretty cool. Thumper didn't care that much about the animals. Lions, tigers, a bear. We read Bear Snores On all day long, but a real bear? Ho hum. The monkeys were exciting, though.

"Silly monkey! What's he doing?"

"I don't know. I think he's just looking at you. What do you think he's doing?"

"Ha ha! Silly monkey!"

He did enjoy the peacock, but he was just as interested in the rocks on the ground and the carts driven by the staff.

But I am proud to say, he wasn't phased by the goats at all, unlike several other kids out there. He ain't 'fraid of no goats!

What Did I Expect? That IS What It's For...

Some time ago, I thought, "Facebook? Why the hell not?"

In 1991, I moved from suburban Dallas to Back Bay Boston to attend Emerson College. I lived in the Fensgate dorm. The cool kids got to live in the bizarre and apparently haunted Charlesgate dorm, but alas, I wasn't that cool. Emerson sold both dorms as they dumped their Back Bay properties and centralized their campus downtown. Now Fensgate is the Charlesview, a luxury condo development. Rumor at the time had it that it had been a mental hospital long ago, because there were strange panels in the door that looked like they had at one time been cutouts, supposedly for passing through food to the patients locked inside. Not true. It was a hotel. Maybe that was the Fensgate uncool kids attempt at one-upping the Charlesgate cool kids.

Anyway, what was I talking about again?

Oh, yeah. I had three roommates. The first, a sophomore, moved in a week earlier than the rest of us because he had volunteered for Orientation Week, showing the new students and their parents around. Consequently, he claimed the dorm room's one bedroom for himself, leaving the rest of us to share the common room. He was also extremely active in his fraternity, which was actually a Boston University chapter, so we didn't see that much of him in the room. Within a few weeks of the start of school, the second roommate was asked to take a leave of absence to seek treatment for alcoholism. So, for the most part, the room was shared by the third roommate and me.

We weren't the best of friends, but we got along fairly well. He was a charmer and a ladies man. I latched onto him because I didn't have a lot of friends. He invited me to Seder at Passover, and his parents welcomed me warmly. We lived one floor above Aerie, and once she and I got over hating each other, she, the roommate and I would spend a lot of time hanging out in our room together. He was a relentless flirt, and she enjoyed messing with him, and I liked playing along. Except when he tried to tell her that he could drive her crazy by kissing her neck, and she said something to the effect of "good luck with that," and I had to leave the room when he began to try while she stared off into space looking bored. Weird moment. Didn't realize at the time that it bothered me because I was jealous. We were still months away from being a couple.

So summer approached, and I decided to stay in Boston, though I couldn't afford to continue going to Emerson. The roommate wanted to move out of the dorm and into an apartment, so we agreed to be roommates. We searched for an apartment, but I couldn't afford rents in the Back Bay area, and he refused to compromise and live a little further out, even though we were talking about places right on the T line, only a few minutes ride away. He was spending his parents' money and had no financial motivation to live further out, so he flatly refused to do it. That should've been my first clue that this wasn't going to be a good arrangement. In fact, it should have been the latest in a string of clues, but I wanted to stay and didn't have many other prospects, so I went ahead.

We rented an expensive condo right at Mass. Ave. and Commonwealth Ave. Not a cheap neighborhood. Nope. But so that I could afford it, we got a one-bedroom, and he paid (slightly) more per month and got the bedroom. I lived on a pullout couch in the living room. I had been essentially doing the same in the dorm, so I thought it wasn't that bad of a compromise.

But it became quickly apparent that he didn't really respect it as my "bedroom." I worked overnights, and came home to find his party guests of the night before sleeping everywhere, including my couch.

When Aerie and I had our first kiss, and I told him about it, he told me to be leery of her because she'd wanted to do the same thing with him not long before, but he'd refused. Was it true? No, it was not. Yeah, he was that kind of friend.

As my relationship with Aerie blossomed, we once did a little fooling around while the roommate was out. In the middle of it, we heard his key in the lock. I jumped up and ran toward the door yelling for him to give us just a minute, but of course he wouldn't. He came right in, doing his best to get a look at her in flagrante delicto. He found it hilarious, and he teased me for weeks about coming through the door and seeing me running right at him, naked. Hilarious.

Then, with 4 months left in the lease, he stopped coming home. One of his grandparents had died, and he was spending more time at home, or something like that. I don't remember exactly. He just left. We talked to our landlord about letting Aerie take over the roommate's part of the lease, or to sublet it from the roommate, or something. But the landlord had a perfectly good lease and didn't care to make a change. So the roommate's mother continued to pay his portion of the rent, and I told the roommate we'd pay him back monthly. He told me to just hold on to the money and pay him the total at the end of the lease.

Then after Aerie moved in, the roommate decided he wanted to come back. We were almost through with the lease anyway. He never really moved back, but he did come and go whenever he pleased, and I didn't put it past him to do something to mess with us, so I put my own lock on the bedroom door, and we rode out the awkwardness. And when the time came to pay him, well... I didn't. I kept the money. I still feel guilty about it, a little. Mostly I regret, though, that it was his mother's money I stole and not his.

We ran into him a few years later, walking on the street on New Year's Eve. He wished us the most sarcastic Happy New Year ever, and kept walking, and we never saw him again.

But yesterday I got a Facebook message from him: "Well, well, well. If it isn't Rodius. What's it's been, 15 years? You still with Aerie? How the hell are you? What have you been up to?"

And that's when it hit me: Oh. Facebook. That's why the hell not.
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