Protecting my family is one of my greatest challenges

My wife and had a little tiff at dinner tonight.

The source of our discussion and tension happened while I was at the reclaimed lumberyard this afternoon (and getting my hair cut, but the lumberyard part of my errands sounds more manly). While I was gone, several losers came to the door. I’ve talked to my wife about what to do, or not do, when someone we don’t know comes to the door – don’t open the door. This is L.A., not Mayberry.

If you come to my door to sell me something, scam me, or harm my family, this is what you have to look forward to. (A handsome model with a shotgun – scary.) © auremar – Fotolia.com

So, here is a shortened version of the conversation:

Wonderful wife: We never have people come to the door anymore but we had a few today. 

Evil me: Really, who?

Wonderful wife: Two kids. I opened the door . . .

Evil me: You opened the door?

Wonderful wife: Yeah, I thought it might be UPS with my sunglasses?

Evil me: Why didn’t you look in the monitor first to see?

Wonderful wife: I don’t know. I didn’t think of it.

Evil me: Why did you open the door?

Wonderful wife: I don’t know. The dogs were there.

Charming 10-year-old daughter who always takes her mother’s side: Yeah, Daddy, the dogs were there. She only opened the door a crack.

Wonderful wife: I made a mistake. Sorry, I’m not perfect. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

Evil me: Why did you open the door? You could have talked to them through the glass.

Wonderful wife: I don’t want to talk about it.

Evil me: Why did you open the door?

Now if my wife were writing this, she would have added, “in an angry tone,” next to all of my lines. And she’d be correct about that. I was pissed because I tell both my wife and daughter never to open the door when I’m not home. I don’t even open the door anymore. I talk to the assholes who invade our privacy through the glass or window. The police told us most of the time it’s either a scam or someone casing the house. There is no reason to open the door for anyone you don’t recognize. It’s why I’ve considered gating in the house.

Most of the people who come to the door are creepy, with crazy-ass stories they’ve perfected while smoking meth day after day in the back of the Scooby van. Their stories require instant decoding to understand and sort the bullshit from the truth.

They’re the “door-to-door” equivalent of spam emails asking for money.

(Hello, good Sir, I’m Herbert Harold Henningsworth the fourth, and I’m here at your door today to give you share of 1 million dollars in Spanish bullion discovered off the coast of Florida. But I had the bad fortune to park my van, which holds the gold, illegally, and your local constables towed it away. I need $500 and a share shall be yours when I retrieve my transportation from the impound lot. Cash is preferred, please.)

My favorite scam is when teenagers arrive at my door and say, “I live over on [insert street name of your choice]. I’m Ron and Mary Wilson’s son. Ronny Jr., Hi, and I’m working to earn enough points to go to China to help orphan children learn to read and assemble iPads. I’m hoping you can help me, a good local kid, save the world. Cash is fine.”

Oh, the Wilson’s son, because I know everyone in a 10-mile radius around my neighborhood. Yeah, Ron and Mary. What the heck?

These little scum artists try to knock you off guard because your brain is trying to make out if this is a real neighborhood kid, which means you don’t want to tell him to F off, lest his real parents show up later with baseball bats and pitchforks and a little payback for Ronny’s Jr.’s humiliation and trauma, all caused by you.

I know I’m overly protective. But there are only two people I value above all else in this life, and protecting the two of them isn’t always easy, especially when they are nice and loving and caring females. I, being the complete opposite in sex and temperament, try to keep the lions and hyenas away from them.

But some days, it ain’t easy. Nope, it sure isn’t. But every day I try to figure out new ways to do it better.

Letter to my daughter – 05/09/12

Dearest Munchkin,

I’m not sure why I chose this image. Well, I do know, I think. But I’m not telling. © INFINITY – Fotolia.com

10 years have blown by, a heavy gust of wind, and when I rubbed the sand from my eyes there you were tall, funny, and with feet almost as big as your mother’s.

In a few years the two of you are going to see eye to eye, literally, which may be the only time the two of you do during your teen years. But in case I’m not around, remember what I’ve told you since you were a baby: No one will ever love you more than your mother does. So, treat her love with respect – as if it’s the most precious, fragile object in the world and it’s your job to carry it from point A to point B without dropping it. Godspeed.

I’m writing to your future self tonight to tell you how proud I am of the way you handled this entire soccer season. If you remember, the previous season ended with a hard talk about your effort and not being a top player, which didn’t match up with your self-assessment. But you found some inner fortitude and proved you had it in you. I hope you never forget what you did and who you became. And I don’t mean the goals or assists or defense or transforming into a better soccer player. It was about more than that.

I’m talking about the effort you put into it and the results you earned and the person you became. Yes, that is what had me in awe the whole season. And I’m hoping it’s a lesson you’ll take away and remember forever, or by reading this letter you’ll be reminded of the spring you grew in more than height.

You learned one of the most important lessons in life: great effort equals great reward. And that’s what I want you to remember in this world of instant fame and riches for being an idiot. Most of the time, barring a lotto win or role on an MTV series, it still comes down to elbow grease, passion, and not giving up against great odds.

You displayed a great deal of character this year. It’s been a pleasure watching you evolve into a more complex person, which probably doesn’t describe it well, but that is what you are now. You’re more interesting to watch and listen to not because you’re a kid doing kid things that parents find interesting, but because you’re becoming unpredictable and surprising, with depth. And that feels like a huge compliment in my book of life.

She shoots, she scores. GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLL.

The next 10 years may be rough sailing at times. But after seeing you explode into a solar storm of character and confidence this year, I’m certain that no matter how hard things get at times, you will have the inner strength, humor, and craftiness (like a fox), to make it through the darkest moments of doubt and come out stronger and wiser.

Have faith, my daughter. Have faith. But it also doesn’t hurt to have a good plan and an understanding that you’re going to get everything out of life that you put into it.

So remember, no slack for the timid. Or goals.

Love always,

Daddy

My daughter at age 10

She’s funny and makes us laugh. Not in the way she did for the first nine years. This is different. She is more aware of her ability to make us laugh, and she goes for the funny remark or action with a purpose. And if she scores laughs, she’s prone to repeat the joke over and over until we tell that was one too many times and it’s not funny anymore. But she likes pushing to see how many times she can make us laugh and where that line of funny and unfunny is.

She’s a good student and hardworking and bright. And though it feels like she only listens to 10% of what I say, which may not be a bad idea at all and why she’s so smart, she did listen to the part about hard work resulting in good things, like good grades. And she does her homework now without prompting and is proud of her success.

She’s a moody at times. One day it’s, “I love you, Daddy.” The next, she comes home from school and doesn’t say a word to me. I’m wondering if this is a female thing? I don’t understand it.

She still likes My Little Pony and watches the cartoon on Saturday mornings. But she doesn’t want anyone to know. Oops, I just let that pony out of the bag. Yes, she’s caught in the fragile strip of time between childhood and being a tweener, or whatever it’s called.

She’s competitive. My wife blames me for this. Okay, guilty. My genes, no doubt. We recently played a 3-day game of Monopoly. First, she and I bankrupted my wife. Yes, we’re awesome. However, my daughter was more compassionate than I about this (her mother’s genes). Then, after my wife was knocked out, I thought about letting my daughter win, but then she was so . . . I don’t know . . . boisterous, overconfident, that something kicked in with me and I couldn’t do it. And I won, of course. She was pretty upset about it. Oh, well, she has her entire life ahead of her to get over it. (Get over it, honey, it was a long time ago.)

She is confident, but hasn’t always been. It’s a fragile confidence we don’t want to break, especially since we feel we’ve played a role in getting her to this point. But it’s not a confidence built on a foundation of “everything you do is great, dear.” We’ve tried to be balanced in our praise and use it when its earned. But something clicked this year with her and she’s a new “her.” Example: she wanted one of the lead roles in her class play and got it. We were amazed she wanted it. She’s also taking singing lessons and we have to ask her not to sing over the American Idol and Voice performances so we can hear the actual performers.

She plays soccer and runs track.

She is imperfect like the two of us, her parents, but maybe not as much. And that fills me with hope that she will grow up and be happy, something I haven’t mastered.

But I’m working on it, always.

True love is proven in the most difficult of situations

I have the greatest wife in the world and a hernia in my ass.

A little salt, a pinch of sugar, and I'll be ready for Thanksgiving. (Sorry, I couldn't resist. I have problems.) © Olga Lyubkin - Fotolia.com

Those are the facts. And I’m happy about the first one and upset about the second.

The official term is Rectal Prolapse. And it’s as bad as it sounds. Perhaps, worse.

Saturday the cipro did a number on my stomach and digestion, and something tore loose back there. I thought it was a hemorrhoid that hurt really bad. But the pain woke me up around 5 a.m. Sunday morning and I was walking gingerly into the ER around 10 a.m. with an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale.

A little luck went my way with a short wait and a very nice doctor who worked the rupture back into place. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay and popped back out and a surgeon was called. No immediate surgery due to the fact it could be put back in place.

“Follow up with your doctor on Monday. Now run along little cow poke. You’ll get the hang of riding horses one day.”

For the past two days, I’ve had to drop trou and have my wife manipulate it back in place because it’s not as easy to do it yourself as the ER doc said, “just use two fingers and push it back in place.” That would be possible if I worked at Cirque du Soleil and could twist my lower body around 180 degrees. But I’m made of wood and might break if I tried.

There is also the steroidal magic bullet I insert, which I do in front of my wife, as asking for privacy at this point seems, well, pointless. After the final application of a salt and sugar paste to reduce swelling and season me properly, I place my ass in the 350-degree oven for a nice crusty glaze*.

Oh, I almost forgot one final step. Gauze is inserted between the two hemispheres and both are taped together, tight, for maximum style points in my cargo shorts.

I must say I’ve been pretty mellow about this new adventure. It has a “this isn’t really happening, is it?” quality about it.

“No, I really don’t have to stand and clench my cheeks before every cough.”

“It’s a good thing this is just a bad dream and I’ll wake soon.”

But it’s real. And yet, at the same time, it’s proof I am the luckiest man in the world because I married a woman with courage for the both of us and gentle hands.

When I’m laying on my side with my back toward her, I tell her that I would do the same for her if our roles were reversed. And I also tell her that I’m glad it’s me going through this and not her.

And I mean it.

***

[*The oven part is a joke. Do not attempt unless you want to be dinner or are a complete idiot.]

My daughter at nine

She eats with her mouth open at times and wipes her hands on her pants or skirt. A week ago, we found asparagus in the toilet after dinner, which she put there but forgot to flush. Career criminal seems unlikely as a future career choice.

She likes boots and confiscated an old pair of her mom’s, which just about fit because she will be taller than her mom and have bigger feet. This worries her.

She likes fashion and sometimes I have to hold my tongue as she experiments with certain clothes and make-up. When some of it got in her eyes a month ago, her fascination with it took a pause and we haven’t seen red cheeks and blue eye lids since.

There's always a reason to dance when you're nine

She is a moody little bear at times and is knocking at puberty’s door. I have no male allies in this house during female mood swings. I miss having a male dog, as the female dogs seem to side with their own sex even if you are the one who feeds them. They’d rather starve than take my side and I’m convinced both women and canines can speak to each other without moving their lips. It’s how they look at me at times that makes me think this.

She takes guitar lessons, but doesn’t like to practice. She takes singing lessons and loves to practice. My wife and I have to tell her not to strain her voice, which means she’s straining our ears with the volume level. But she belts it out anyway. Oh, and she loves to dance and is pretty good, but doesn’t want to take dance lessons. Some logic is not for me to question.

She is all about fairness right now. Like in: How come daddy doesn’t have to do the dishes? Good question. How come I don’t have to do the dishes? First, your mother doesn’t look good in a tool belt like I do and she doesn’t know how to use a hammer or a drill. How’s that for fairness? Now scrub those plates, Cinderella. 

She still consumes books as if addicted. It’s a sight to see and has cost us a lot of money over the years, but it’s her talent. She even reads the parenting magazines my wife reads. So, during dinner when we’re arguing about something, or she conveniently lets the broccoli drop from her fork to one of her furry partners-in-crime, I ask her: What do your parent magazines say I should do in a situation like this? That confuses her. I guess she didn’t read the article, “Kids who share their veggies with dogs.” I did.

She is wonderful, perfectly imperfect, and we’re so lucky to have her. The Universe took favor on us with its choice.

Meet Mr. Discomfort

Mark down yesterday as the first time my daughter said “I hate you” to me. But both and wife and I were glad she did. True. And I kind of earned it. I’ll explain.

First, my wife is the better parent, as if that needs explaining to anyone reading this blog. She’s up on the parent mags and is loving and caring. I stumble through life and wing it, happy to wake up each morning, which is an instant win in my mind.

And then there is our talented and smart 9 year-old daughter going through a transitional stage and testing the borders of the soon to be teenage years. And though we think our daughter is special, as all parents do of their children, I worry that she lives too comfortable of an existence.

My wife and I are not rich. We both work. Our house is less than 1,900 sq ft, which gives me house envy here in Los Angeles. And as an only child, our daughter gets all of our attention and lives a good life. And though her hardship and defining moment may come at anytime when my lungs fail or I get hit by a moon rock, she leans toward not wanting to break out of her comfort zone, and is a little on the shy side, especially with adults.

That’s where I come in. I’m Mr. Discomfort and my picture should be on a bottle with a really long legal disclaimer, a number for the local poison-control hotline, and the warning: “May cause irritation.” 

It’s my job to shake things up when life stagnates.

I get bothered when my daughter holds her feelings in and doesn’t participate in discussions. So, rather than have the silent young lady at the table sitting it out while life goes by, I push and prod until we have a mild conflict going that leads to emotion and the flexing and testing of communication skills. And most importantly in the end: growth.

So, when the young firecracker’s fuse ran out and she asked us if it was okay to speak exactly what was on her mind, we gave her the green light. We had plenty of burn cream in the kitchen.

And when she said “I really, really hate you right now” I was okay with that. It was a breakthrough of her not holding in her emotions and expressing herself. And more importantly, it resulted in her gaining the confidence to take singing and karate lessons, which is what the conversation was about in the first place – her not trying new things in life and ending up sad about it later as an adult.

When opportunities present themselves, we said, take advantage. Or, the moment may be lost and you’ll regret it.

To my daughter’s credit, she got it. And soon she’ll be kicking the daylights out of a karate bag and singing Lady Gaga songs.

The most touching moment came later that night outside when she asked me if I loved her. Yes, I do love you, I said.

Even though I said I hated you?

Yes, I said. Always. No matter what.

And the night was magical and mile 9 of the marathon continued with me skirting the fine line of “near-disaster” parenting, proving once again, even numskulls get lucky once in awhile.

Letter to my daughter 06/13/11

[To my friends: I’ve been tinkering with this post for almost two weeks. It’s the most frustrating of my letters to my daughter and makes me wish I had told my wife about my blog so she could edit it. I’m posting it so I can move on to new posts. However, I’ll probably revise this one forever. ]

Dearest Daughter,

The mistakes I’ve made in my life haunt me. Probably more than they should. But I can’t help it and I can’t forget them.

I wish I could take what I’ve learned and transfer that knowledge directly to your mind, helping you avoid the same ones. But I know you need to make your own.

Perhaps, I can help you in an unusual way.

Creative commons: Photo by Chefranden

If a butterfly flaps its wings in Hawaii, will it affect the weather in California? This is my version, by the way. And, my answer is “no, it will not. Or, there is no way to prove it.” However, if a nuclear power plant melts down in Japan, will it affect California? Yes.

So, there are obvious, major events we can measure – radiation – and events we can’t – the influence of the butterfly’s wings.

But when it comes to your life, the butterfly flapping its wings, or the small event seemingly with little impact at the time, matters a great deal.

Think of the timeline of your life, past and future. Actions or a lack of action in your life, especially early on, will change your life when you’re older – for better and worse. In my case, worse.

I think of my life now and believe it should be easier than it is. I should know more than I do. I should know how to do more things – play the guitar, solve harder math questions, identify more plants and trees, make more money, have the perfect career. I should be in a better position to take care of you and your mother.

And when I look back on my life, my situation now is a creation from simple actions I took or didn’t take when I was younger – when opportunity presented itself. I hung out with the wrong people and made the wrong choices, and never factored in the future.

Here’s the simple equation: (here and now + anything goes) – an eye on the future = the hole you’ll have to dig yourself out of for the rest of your life.

Creative Commons: Photo by shark001

This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, or must work yourself to the bone. Have fun. Enjoy life. Just remember little events and choices have potentially big consequences later on in life. You’ll have to live with the good and bad decisions. No matter what though, don’t beat yourself up like I have. Let the bad ones go.

I’ll leave you with this. Until you know exactly what you want with your life – what makes you the happiest – open as many doors as possible, try as many far-reaching experiences as possible. Play the guitar, the piano. Learn karate. Skeet shoot. Make a quilt. Study as much math as possible. Appreciate science and nature.

Better yet, ignore everything I’ve listed and go your own way, but always love your Mother no matter what.

It’s my hope one day when you’re in a tough situation, on your own, with someone leaning on you to do something you know is probably not the best choice for you to make, this post will remind you to imagine the butterfly and the air currents its flapping wings displace. And strength will come to you from the knowledge that those currents can only travel a long way into your future if you allow them to.

Love, Daddy