Tag Archives: Humor

Notes On Fatherhood

I Don’t Know’s On Third

First baseball game of the season. Machine pitch for the 9-year-old boys means a high scoring, high action game. Bottom of the 5th. Catcher is setting into place. First batter taking practice swings. My son’s team is in the field, facing the plate, knees bent, still and ready. My son is at third base. And he is dancing.

He’s not literally moving rhythmically to music in his head. He is practicing. Mimicking what he will do when the batter grounds to third. He will catch the ball and throw to first. But he is not putting his glove in the dirt and then pretending to throw to first. He is darting his glove straight out in front of him and then whipping a straight side-arm motion with his other arm. So it looks like ‘glove out ‘stop!’ gesture, hop, other arm swing around with a sideways hip twist.’ Once and again, once and again. As if in rhythm.

He may not be the best player on the team, and by a lot. But I do not care. Really I don’t. Picture the most obnoxious and demanding dad yelling at his son to crush his enemies, and I am the polar opposite of that. I want him to have fun, to be a good sport. All I ask of him is that he tries – that he shows the other boys, the coach, that he’s doing his best. He is a nice boy. A gentle boy. And to be his father is pleasure in its purest form. He does not insult the other team. He does not make excrement jokes in the dugout. He sometimes even tries to chat with opposing players when on base.

At this moment, I know he’s nervous. He is terrified of the ball in general, and he loves to play right field because he sees almost no action there. But the rules say that each boy must play at least one inning in the infield. And so here he is in the 5th at third base. His practice tells me he is nervous. But he wants to show the other boys that he is ready. That this is what he will do with speed and fury when called upon to do so. He wants to show he’s got the moves down. And so he is dancing.

The inning begins. He plays toward shortstop, as coached. He runs to his base and turns with his glove out to catch a throw, every play, whether a runner is on second or not. For, that is the third baseman’s job. Then, there is a force play at third. I speak up from the dugout, “Marco! Force play at third! Marco!” He notices me. “Force play at third!” He nods with surety. As if he knows what I mean. I so very much hope he knows what I mean. The coach yells “Marco, if you get the ball, step on third base!” He nods again. I am not reassured.

Then a solid hit to third. Ground ball, one bounce, coming at him hard. I know he will raise his glove, side-step, and leave the retrieval to the fielder. And he does not catch the ball, but he uses the back of his glove to knock the ball to the ground. And it works. He has stopped the ball. Parents cheer. The coach yells ‘good job, Marco! You kept a single from becoming a double!” My son nods again. As if he knows. He did not catch the ball. He did not step on third. But he acted. He tried. And I could not be more proud.

Next inning, bottom of the 6th, he is happily back in right field, behind first base. I look over toward him and realize I must position myself where he can hear me without having to yell so loudly that everyone notices, because he is standing out there, his glove on his head like a hat, karate punching the air.

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Some Simpsons Product Writing

moe

“This card is good for
for one free beer at Moe’s.”

“Offer good
over my dead body.”

 

 

 

 

wiggumstop

“Does anybody in the crowd know
anything about hostage negotiating
or firearms or explosives or
whatever else might be going on
in there?”

 

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Notes On Fatherhood

Tree house

My son’s tree house is in reality a large play set with an extra few steps up to a higher platform, with safety rails and a tarped roof. It is huge and awesome and cost the price of a crappy used car. And because of our down-sloping back yard, I had to build a level retaining wall out of a couple dozen railroad ties, a few tons of gravel, a month of spine bending weekends, and the cost of a crappier used car.

We positioned the play set within a tuft of trees, and the desired ‘tree house’ effect was achieved. And it has the added awesomeness of a 14-foot slide off the downhill slope, right off the retaining wall, that sends my son and his friends rocketing into the neighbor’s yard at a speed that gives me palpitations to witness.

Sitting up on the top level of the tree house is an idyllic experience that begs for make-believe play of every sort, from Army Sniper picking off enemy forces at will, to Dinosaur Hunters picking off massive monsters at will, to Swiss Family Robinson Tree Home Army Sniper picking off enemy forces at will. For, however innocently the fun begins, violence and death are where the fun inevitably arrives.

And so it was on one particular occasion. My son and I, sitting at the child-sized plastic table on the high level of the tree house, enjoying an afternoon as wilderness explorers, when he climbs down to the lawn and runs inside to pick up a few toy rifles so the games can begin in earnest.

A minute passes. Two. Five. My neighbor, let’s call him ‘Bob’ because his name is in fact Bob, happens by, mowing his impeccable lawn – his lawn that makes our living room carpet look unkempt, which it totally is. He passes a few times. We give each other the cursory ‘I couldn’t hear you anyway’ wave over the scream of the mower. Then he shuts the mower off to fiddle with what must be a sprinkler head.

We begin a quiet conversation. Nice weather. Those sprinkler heads can be fussy. We sure could use a bit of rain. He is a grown man tending to his lawn. I am a grown man sitting on a small plastic chair in a tree house. By myself. Bob arrived on the scene only after my son had gone inside to fetch his requisite arsenal, now fifteen minutes ago, and as far as Bob knows, I have been enjoying a quiet afternoon up there all alone. I’ve got a nice warm coat on. I’ve got snacks. I’ve got a compass that points north if I turn it that way, and plastic binoculars that, when I look through them, I see only what I think might be peanut butter.

Bob wraps up his sprinkler fussings, stands to pull his mower again to life, and before he rips the cord, he says “have fun.” I close my eyes and nod. Yup. I built the damn wall. I paid for the damn fort. Why couldn’t I just enjoy some nice alone time out there by myself, with my snacks and nice warm coat, whiling away the afternoon within my own quiet imaginings?

Finally, I squeeze out from under the safety rail and step down the ladder. The slide is much faster but would rocket me straight into a body cast. I reach the ground and mosey inside, as if my dignity is very much intact. My son is watching TV, some toy guns on his lap.

“I thought you were coming back outside.”

“I got hungry”

“We had snacks out there.”

(No reply)

“How about a heads-up next time, okay, buddy?”

“Okay, Dad.”

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Notes On Fatherhood

Stupid Plus Unwelcome Equals Me

While helping my 3rd grade son with his homework, I have learned some very basic dos and don’ts that I would like to share, which may help you to keep from losing your temper in five seconds. But they likely will not help, as they have all only failed me so far.

First, do not let him eat a snack, or his pencil, when he’s supposed to be thinking. Food is a distraction, and their stains on his paper have got to make you look bad in the eyes of his teacher. And a pencil is, simply put, not food. Not even the eraser part. I did once witness my brother’s huge dog poop out a large portion of a red Nerf football, which I would liken to a horrifying neon cherry ice cream. I apologize for the image, but my point is that I am fairly certain a tiny bit of eraser would not do my son any real harm. Especially after living through his baby years with all the bits of bright and happy crayon colors we would occasionally find in his diaper. But hopefully, with my son, I will not have to resort to actual chew toys as redirection.

Also, you will quickly learn to distinguish between his ‘I’m thinking’ face and his ‘I’m pretending to be thinking’ face, which he will use as a way to stall, to finish up a daydream, or to just try to get that pencil back in his mouth. The biggest hint that he is pretending to be thinking is his actual voicing of “umm,” when it sounds staged, as if ‘this is the noise a person makes whilst thinking, and so I, therefore, must no doubt, at this moment, be thinking,’ while tapping the pencil eraser part against his cheek, stepping ever closer, back toward his mouth.

Also, do not allow stuffed animals at the table. They will arrive under the guise of friends who offer moral support, a cheering squad for his efforts, but they are really only there to act as puppets that he will animate to voice his own criticism of your work ethic and methodology.

Next, be emotionally prepared for him to use his teacher against you, immediately and constantly. “She does it this way.” “She said we didn’t have to do that.” My son is a good boy and he is only trying to make his life easier, which I can understand and appreciate, but he is full of crap and lying straight to my face. Performing basic math and spelling homework with parents is how children learn to debate. And lie and cheat. And probably steal.

Most importantly, keep in mind that his academic level is at a point where you are still likely able to help him with minimal preparation on your part. And if not, it’s still possible to fake it at this stage, and pretend to know an answer before you have actually figured it out in your head. Just stall. “Do you know the answer? Can you figure it out? Think for a minute. Get the pencil away from your face, please.” This should buy you the time you need to arrive at the answer. Unless you are my wife. She is a brilliant business strategist, but putting a two-digit number over another two-digit number and combining or separating them to produce a solution requires either the part of the Rosetta Stone that is still missing, or Dad. And Dad is not, as yet, missing.

And when my son does reach the academic level at which I cannot help him without studying ahead of time myself, I will without a doubt fail with catastrophic totality. And thus will begin the ‘Dad is stupid’ phase of my life, which should only last until I am dead.

Even with these early challenges, I still have grand designs for helping him with his homework in the future, as his studies advance. I fully hope to obtain copies of his text books, communicate with his various teachers, read ahead, and ready myself for any and all intellectual challenges posed by, say, 4th grade. And I have already received some crystal clear signals from his teachers that they would be happy to hear from me, but maybe not more than once, maybe twice. Better, though, to be a teacher’s bane than my son’s idiot father, though I will no doubt become both. When his teacher replies to a simple ‘how should he show his work?’ e-mail with phrases like ‘reform mathematical pedagogy,’ I know I’m fast approaching ‘stupid and unwelcome,’ and accelerating at a rate which I will never be able to compute.

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