Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dad: Genetic Hand-Me-Downs

Every superhero has a weakness. Superman crumbles at the sight of kryptonite and copy editors. Batman is addicted to self-loathing. The Human Torch is allergic to asbestos and modesty. Even Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles Tendon, which, of course, was the only spot left vulnerable when the gods dipped him in the River Styx at his birth.

Baby Kobe averaged just 18.0 points per game before this procedure.

As the closest thing to a superhero my daughter knows, my weakness is a ticklish spot at the base of my neck. All a person need do is point at it and I become a powerless, twitching heap on the floor like Luke Skywalker in the final battle scene of Return of the Jedi, screaming for somebody to come help me before I die.

said every kid ever just before fun tickle time turned into crying.

That little spot is my Achilles Heel, if you will, and has been for as long as I can rememb. And guess who inherited it from me?

Those are tears of joy, I swear.

My wife discovered it on Susan one morning and yelled for me to come look. I jumped out of the shower to go see, I was so excited. “Why is this guy so worked up about his daughter being ticklish on the neck?” you may be asking. “Isn’t 95 percent of the world ticklish on the neck?” you may say. “Wait, did he put a towel on after he jumped out of the shower? Because he didn’t say.” Yes, I was wearing a towel, and I was so excited about it because my wife is not ticklish on the neck, so this genetic hand-me-down is all me. And isn’t that one of the greatest things about being a parent? Seeing what pieces of you and your wife show up in your kids? What makes you who you are in turn making your kids who they are?

My daughter has always looked like my wife, but as it turns out, she has my eyes. Physical traits like hair color, eye color and which parent they look like are all wonderful to see develop. But other traits reveal themselves later and continue to surface over the course of a lifetime. Maybe you’re a writer of fiction like BabyCenter blogger Charlie Brooks and your son pens a story in the first grade that is actually pretty good. Maybe you played soccer in college and at your daughter’s first Pee Wee soccer game, she runs circles around everybody. Maybe you play the piano and by age three your son can bang out a full scale and a couple harmonies. Or maybe they’re just 13 months old and they have the exact same tickle spot as you.

For somebody who’s going through this for the first time, it’s exciting stuff, like rubbing away a lottery scratch-off ticket that you know you’re going to win. So even though all I have right now is Susan’s blue eyes and a tickle spot, that's cause for plenty of excitement with much more to look forward to. And one day when she turns to me and says, "You're not the boss of me," well, she gets that from her mother.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dad: Toddlers of the Corn

Susan officially made her daycare transition from infant classroom to toddler classroom this week, and as we're quickly discovering, the toddler classroom is completely different from the infant room. With the new nap schedule, more advanced activities and "more aggressive" classmates, Susan has struggled with the transition a bit, or at least that’s how I feel when I leave her in the classroom crying every morning. This week, Mary Jane and I decided to try a few things to help her.

I’m the one that drops Susan off in the morning, meaning I’m the one she runs after screaming and crying when I say goodbye and sprint out the door. I have to sprint because (a) she’s fast and (b) if I don’t leave quickly, I’m tempted to stick around and comfort her, and then she latches onto me like the face-hugger thing in Alien and I have to shake her off so I can go to work.

Stop dad, don't go to work.
So Tuesday morning I took Susan to daycare armed with her baby doll and planned on playing with her in the classroom for a few minutes before leaving. When I got there, one of the little girls had her face and hands pressed against the glass door to the classroom. She didn’t respond to my hand gestures of “move out of the way so I can open the door without propelling you into a wall,” so I just went for it and “nudged” her back. When we got inside, the little girl smiled at Susan and ran off.

I took Susan to the bathroom to wash her hands, a requirement of our daycare to keep germs at a minimum. It works, sometimes. Outside the bathroom, another little girl was screaming like she’d just been stabbed in the leg (or touched lightly on the arm by a feather, you can never tell with toddlers). The girl’s dad was there comforting her, but then I noticed the toddler who greeted us at the door standing right there with them. She was not crying. She was smiling. I thought I heard the dad say the words “pulling your hair.”

I took Susan into the toddler bathroom and washed her hands. She had a good time playing with the water and was still happy at that point (a minor success). From there, the only thing separating me from a tear-free goodbye was finding a distraction for Susan while I snuck out undetected, all ninja-like. I had her baby doll handy, but in an effort to build her socialization skills, I thought it would be a good idea to let her play with the friendly little door-greeter who was running around the classroom like a social butterfly.

I looked for the little girl and found her shoving her way into the bathroom where the crying baby and her father were trying to wash hands. The father was trying to shoo the infiltrator baby out of the bathroom, but, just as I had discovered upon trying to enter the classroom, this little girl didn’t do too well with words, hand gestures or just general requests for personal space. I thought it’d be a good time to help out a fellow father, so I got the girl’s attention and asked her to come play with Susan. She eyed me suspiciously until I showed her Susan’s baby doll and shook it at her. You know, like you do when you’re calling a dog.

As a reminder, I’ve only been on the daddy job a little over a year and I’m not too fluent in toddler communication. Apparently showing a toddler anything in the manner in which I did clearly means “Come take this, it’s yours and I don’t want it. Just come right on over and grab it out of my hands. Ignore everything else I say from this point, like ‘No, let go. No, stop doing that. No, unhand my daughter’s baby doll you Toddler of the Corn.’” And so that’s what she did.

Before I could figure out what just happened, the kid had Susan’s baby doll in both hands. Susan just stared blankly, as did I, both of us wondering what the proper recourse was when a toddler steals something right out of your hands. The little girl kept saying “Baby!” and hugging the doll. I reached for it, but she snatched it away and started walking around the classroom. She took it to another kid to play with, and Susan started to cry. Even though I had just given away one of my one-year-old daughter’s favorite toys, I wasn’t about to go snatch it away from a stranger baby and end up on YouTube as “Man Who Steals From Babies.”

So what did I do? Duh, I did what anyone in my position would have done and told the teacher on her. She helped me retrieve the doll, which I gave to Susan who promptly threw it on the ground and started crying. With my Father of the Year award all but locked up at this point, I kissed Susan goodbye and sprinted out the classroom. Then she ran after me, crying.