Friday, June 25, 2010

From Drought to Flood

So now I belong to three playgroups, and my calendar is full. Thumper and I go to play dates and there are people there whose names I know! And whose kids' names I know! I can entice him to go out the door with me sans screaming fit by telling him, "[Insert name of older kid he admires] will be there!"

And dangit, wouldn't you know, my dads' group, who show up to nearly nothing and communicate almost not at all, like they're a bunch of do-it-yourself loner males or something, suddenly planned an outing! A spontaneous outing that sounded like a lot of fun! This morning, they went to McKinney Falls State Park to fish and swim and hike and grill and bike and play horseshoes and throw footballs and have all manner of excellent outdoor fun. The old guard dads were even going to show up in numbers, the ones who were the original members and haven't come to anything since their kids entered school.

I was kind of baffled by this. Last week, Thumper and I suggested a morning swimming in the lake, followed by a picnic lunch. One other dad wanted to come; the idea was met by deafening silence by everyone else. So we went, and we had a great time. The other dad brought his canoe. His little girl is just a month older than Thumper, and the four of us had a fabulous time.

So why do I find it annoying that the dads' group finally planned an outing, and a spectacular one at that? Because I'd already RSVP'd to the first play date of the brand new playgroup, the third to which I now belong. I didn't want to make a bad impression and back out. And it was fun. We went to the sprinkler park. Thumper has gotten over his fear of lifeguards, and has been having a blast at the pools the last few weeks. And he even got wet at the sprinkler park today. He didn't get upset when he got sprayed or splashed by other kids, either. It's a great relief to know we won't be the only two idiots frying on the untouchably hot playgrounds this summer while everybody else keeps cool in the pool.

So we did the same-old, same-old while the dads all had grand fun without us. Stupid dads' group...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Belated

Once again, I forgot to acknowledge my blog's birthday this year (May 11). I've spent my free time the past couple of days reading through my 2007 posts, which is a remarkably narcissistic way to spend one's time, but still enlightening. I remembered many of those posts, but hadn't realized how early and close together they'd appeared. I wrote with much verbosity and frequency when I was still working full-time, spending 9 hours in front of a computer and doing surprisingly little work.

I'm also posting less because, well, I've said already, and repeatedly, much of what I'm thinking about these days. A graph of the number of posts per month over the last three years looks sort of like the EKG of a dying patient. I've mentioned that "He makes me laugh all the time, and he makes me frustrated all the time, and I'm not sure why I didn't know it would be like this," and that's pretty much my theme these days. I even start to bore myself when I talk about how wonderful Thumper is, and I'm not really interested in turning this blog into a place where I complain about the difficulties and frustrations that are a built-in part of raising a kid. And since I do this kid wranglin' thing full time, that doesn't leave me with much more to talk about.

What else was different then? I was funnier. I was livelier. I was a better performer. I think I had a voice then that I've lost. I had a more exuberant attitude about a world that I was discovering, and now I'm in a rut that doesn't inspire me as much as all those heady changes did back then. Plus, More Than a Minivan Mom and I had a falling out. She had and has a large following that bled over onto my blog when she added me to her blogroll. When we had a falling out that led to her removal from my blogroll and my removal from hers, it resulted in the loss of many readers and many commenters over here, though I suspect it had no effect on her readership over there. So sometimes I feel like I'm writing to my family and not many more than that, which still has value, but doesn't give me that intoxicating feeling of being an internet superstar.

Anyway. Those were crazy times. These are crazy times. The end.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Yes, We Read the Grinch, Too, Even Though It's June

This week, in addition to trying to control my calorie intake and workout every day and just generally try to be a better person, I'm trying to remember that despite the ear infections and Terrible Twos and tantrums and the retorts of "no, I'm just tryin' to do this" when I tell him to stop doing something and the several thousand times a day that I say, "Come on. Come on. Come on. Come on." and the throwing of toys and the bashing of various household objects with his officially licensed Texas Longhorns baseball bat, that doing this job really is fun and exactly what I wanted for my life.

Wow, that was a really long sentence.

Tonight, as I was reading him his bedtime books, I thought about what a strange and wonderful experience it is watching him turn into a real person. Anyone who sees my Facebook status updates knows I talk about him a lot, and post ad nauseum all the funny things he says and does as we go about our daily routine. He gets a lot of attention wherever we go. Just as a fer instance, we went jogging Saturday morning, and as we passed the tennis courts, he pointed and yelled, "I want to watch tennis!" So we paused and sat on the little bleachers with a couple of moms who were watching their kids receive tennis lessons. He had an entire conversation with one of the moms, completely independent of me, asking her name, pointing out what a funny name "Dixie" is, telling her his name and age, discussing the hummingbird on her shirt and what exactly a hummingbird is, telling her about his recent haircut and the birthday party he'd be going to later. She told him he didn't get a hair cut, he got 'em all cut, then snorted out a laugh and apologetically told me her humor was about at a two-year-old level. He told her Daddy cut his hair, and she said she bet I'd done it with clippers rather than scissors because that was a lot of ground to cover over his big ol' brain.

When the tennis lesson was over, and Thumper ran out onto the court to help the kids pick up balls and rackets, The mom asked me if he was really two, which we get a lot. She repeatedly marveled at how smart he was and how well he spoke, which we also get a lot. As often as I report encounters like this, and how often I'm reminded of how special he is and how lucky we are, it's still easy to forget and get bogged down in the challenges, the less pleasant aspects of taking care of him day after day.

So that's what I was thinking about while I read him his books. Because I've read all of those books so many times, I began changing We're Going on a Bear Hunt up a bit to amuse myself. I sang the first two sentences; he turned and gave me the Upraised Finger of Discipline, that I apparently use on him, though I'm not aware when I do it, and said, calmly, "No, you don't sing it. You just read it." I began reading from where I left off, and he said, "No, you missed some words." So I started over. Then I began changing some of the words. I turned the thick, oozy mud into thin, squeaky mud. I turned the whirling, swirling snowstorm into stinking, creeping smog cloud. At each point that I wandered from the printed text, he patiently brought me back, explaining that it wasn't woods, it was a forest, it wasn't a squeaky, wooden door, it was a narrow, gloomy cave.

And my heart grew three sizes that day, swelling with love for this remarkable, adorable, maddening kid who knows much more than he should, and who is, after all, only two, and is exactly where he should be, doing what he should be doing, just as I am.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Comfortable in my Manhood, Except at a Shower

Now that I'm cheating on my dads' group with a neighborhood playgroup that's comprised almost entirely of moms (excepting one other dad that I haven't yet met because he hasn't showed up to anything), it's becoming apparent that gender is not quite as inconsequential as I might have thought. Being the self-confident and progressive male that I am, and having often been the only dad on the playground these past nearly-three years, I thought joining a moms' group would be no big deal. And mostly it is, but now and again it does make for some awkward moments.

I finally got a reply from the first moms' group I tried to join, one that actually has the word "Moms" in its name. Six weeks or so after I requested membership at the suggestion of a couple of the group's members, one of the administrators of the group replied at last and said, "no, thanks, sorry, but we decided a long time ago that we would be moms-only so that none of our members would be made uncomfortable by the presence of men, but best of luck to you and if you'd like tips on starting your own group, I'm happy to help." By then I'd already joined the small, local playgroup, so I felt only mildly annoyed by this reply and its long time in coming.

The local group is small, with a core of regular attendees whose company and children I quite like. I've had fun chatting with them while forcing Thumper to share and be nice and not hit and not throw playground gravel. For the most part, they are friendly and inclusive. We've been invited to three birthday parties already. But there are two moms that seem particularly reserved around me, despite Thumper's apparently-not-irresistible charms. Maybe they're just slow to warm to new people. Maybe it's not personal. Maybe it's not gender-related. But somehow I get the feeling that it is. I don't know. They seem more formal, more guarded, than they are with the other moms. That is, "with the moms;" not "with the other moms."

Also, I find there are conversational turns that leave me behind. At a birthday party yesterday, a pregnant mom who has been very accepting of me was sitting next to me eating birthday cake. She suddenly said, "Oh!" and put a hand to her side, then awkwardly said, "Sorry," when I smiled at her.

"The baby likes cake, huh?" I said. "Yes," she replied, then turned away from me and started a conversation with the mom next to her on the other side about breach positions and gestating babies' punches and kicks and what foods seem to inspire the most activity. It was a conversation I felt like I could have participated in, having lived with a pregnant woman whose baby was transverse breach and who shared her affinity for coffee-flavored ice cream. But body language seemed to make it clear that this was lady talk, and the door was closed. Ah, well.

This morning, I got an email that this same mom sent to the group, asking for mailing addresses of all the members interested in attending the baby shower her mother is throwing for her. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I am, in thinking that traditionally baby showers are strictly for the females. I was reminded of Aerie's wedding shower. Her family surprised her with it by getting us to come to her aunt's house for I think a cousin's birthday party or something like that. When we got there, and it turned out to be a shower, my future brother-in-law earned my eternal gratitude, rescuing me from having to sit through a parade of housewares, home d├ęcor, and lingerie by taking me out to drink beer and shoot pool, a manly inoculation against such girly pursuits. So receiving an invitation to attend a baby shower at which I presumably would make the other attendees feel as awkward as I would feel myself, I quickly, and I hope politely, declined.

So, yeah, being part of a moms' group is mostly good and sometimes weird. At least they show up to play dates regularly, though.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Back in the Swim

Ever since last summer's lifeguard debacle, I've been hoping that he'd forget all about it over the winter. We were careful not to use the L word around him. But every time we went to the playground that's next to the neighborhood pool, he would say, "Nope! No lifeguards today!" He was determined never to forget.

So when school finally ended and the pools all opened up again, I thought the perfect way to help him get over his fear was to make a special occasion out of it. We didn't just go to the pool, we took Freckles and Robert McGee to Volente Beach. It has a 1-foot kiddie pool with a pirate ship in it! It has a bigger pool with frog slide! It has a lakeside beach! And best of all, it would have Freckles and Robert McGee, two of his all-time favorite people in the world!

That morning, as I was dressing him, I told him we were going to pick up his cousins.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

"To Volente Beach."

"What's Volente Beach?"

"A waterpark."

"What's a waterpark?"

"It's a place that has water slides, and a pirate ship, and pools, and ice cream, and hamburgers and hot dogs, and Freckles and Robert McGee will be there!"

"Does it have lifeguards?"

"Yes."

"Ahhh!!! I don't want to go there!"

But I told him we had to, because we promised the cousins we would. When we picked them up, Robert McGee had swim goggles that fascinated Thumper. I asked him if he needed swim goggles, too, and of course you know that he did. So we stopped on the way to buy him some. And suddenly he was excited again.

At first my hopes were a little dashed because he had no interest in either pool, even with a pirate ship, even with two fabulous cousins. He saw the lifeguards, and was wary, but he didn't panic. He just didn't really want to play in the water. So we took him down to the beach. There were lifeguards there, too, but I told him with his swim goggles we could look for rocks and shells and look for fish swimming in the lake. So in he went, and he had a blast. He bounced, he danced, he sang, he played. He even waved to a lifeguard. He had so much fun, that he didn't want to get out, though we promised him ice cream. Thumper never turns down ice cream!

Since it was such a success, I thought I'd best strike while the iron was hot and get him quick to the scene of the original trauma. I told him we were going to the pool, and he was fine with that. Until we got there. As soon as he saw it, he said, "The pool's closed! No lifeguards today!" I told him it wasn't closed, and he started crying. "I don't want to go in there!"

But I persisted, and we went in. I changed him into his trunks and doused him with sunscreen, and he cried the whole time. Then I pulled out a squirt gun. He brightened immediately.

"I want that!" he said. I gave it to him. "I want water in that!" he said.

"OK, the water's in the pool. Let's go get some." And we did. And he immediately began having fun. It took about 10 minutes to get from sitting on a deck chair with his face in his hands sobbing to standing in chest-high water with a huge grin on his face yelling, "I'm jumping on one feets! I'm jumping on one feets! I'm jumping on one toe!" We were there for two straight hours. I may have been a little premature in declaring redemption last year, but now? Maybe now?

I Almost Said Yahtzee

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