RSSFather Knows Nothing
In past years my boys and I have gone all out to celebrate Mother’s Day. We’ve created films, audio CDs, stories, poems, and musical performances for her. We’ve made her breakfast in bed, and gone out of our way to behave for 24 hours (sometimes, sadly, unsuccessfully). But the truth of the matter is that Mother’s Day has always required extensive planning and involvement on my part.
This year I decided to remove myself from the process. I put the boys in a room and said they couldn’t come out until they came up with a Mother’s Day plan. Twenty minutes later they emerged with several concepts.
“What’s the plan?” I asked.
Mother’s Day is this coming weekend, and I wanted to take a few moments to praise a mother I greatly admire—the mother of my children, my wife Bridget.
I’m the primary care giver for the boys—I work from home and take care of them when they’re not at school. But if I’m going to be perfectly honest, I also have to admit that I really only take care of them when everything is running smoothly. As soon as there is a bump in the road, their mother takes over. This is especially true when they get sick.
This past week a flu strain ripped through the household. It began when 10-year-old Sean came into our room at about 4:00 in the morning. About thirty seconds later he delivered a projectile present to us all over our sheets.
My youngest son Sean lives and breathes baseball. He can’t get enough of playing the game, watching it on television, listening to it on the radio, or reading about the legends of the sport.
Ever since he was five years old, his favorite player has been Jackie Robinson. He was drawn in by Jackie’s historic status as the first African-American player of course, but I honestly think the thing that impressed him the most was that Jackie Robinson stole home more than 20 times in his career.
“He stole home!” he would point out, sheer amazement in his voice.
My 10-year-old son Sean has a character trait that I greatly admire. He is perpetually enthusiastic. No task is too mundane for Sean. The other day I told him I would pay him $5 to pick up the dog poop in the backyard.
“5 DOLLARS?” he said, incredulous at his good fortune. “You betcha.”
And he went out into the backyard and did it too. When I gave him a crisp new fiver, he was positively beaming.
All three of my boys own a hand-held Nintendo menace known as a “DS”. You know the menaces I speak of—tiny video game consoles that come with tiny (incredibly easy to lose) games.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the DS. I love that if I need to get my boys out of my hair for a few minutes, these eyesight-ruiners will dutifully entertain them.
But I hate everything else about them. I hate what happens to my boys after they’ve been playing on the DS for too long. They turn into glassy-eyed trigger-happy monsters. They can never play enough (“Just let me finish this level, Dad.” )—they need more, more, more, more—and often during expressly forbidden times. For instance, I’ve caught them playing with a DS under their covers at 3:00 in the morning. I’ve caught them playing with a DS inside the pages of a book they are pretending to read for homework. Those are the kind of situations guaranteed to make a father snap.
Her bark is so ferocious, I’ve put “Beware of Dog “ signs on my backyard gate and front door. When you get to know her she’s a sweetheart, but she sure doesn’t sound dainty and feminine when you happen to walk into our backyard unannounced.
That’s her turf, baby. She serves and protects.
She doesn’t just protect her land, either. She protects her people, especially the resident alpha dog—yours truly. When my boys get angry at me (which is all the time), she stands right by my side, as if to say “If you want a piece of him, you’re going to have to go through me.”
I know the danger of early deadlines. I once wrote an article about a famous television personality that had to be submitted to my magazine's editor three months before publication date. Unfortunately, just days before that issue hit the newsstands, the personality was fired.
It was embarrassing, but not nearly as embarrassing as what just happened to the Scholastic math series "Dynamath". The idea of Dynamath is to create story problems that are more relevant by basing them on stories that kids will find interesting (instead of the more formulaic story problems we were subjected to as children.)
I’m a natural worrier.
As a radio producer, this served me well. I could smell potential problems—and believe me there are a million of them—so I obsessed about planning for those, just in case. As a result, things went pretty smoothly on the shows I produced. (I just never slept.)
As a parent, on the other hand, being a worrier is a very bad thing. What can go wrong in child’s life? Are you kidding me? What can’t? There are virtually no situations that don’t cause me to worry. I even dreaded going to the playground when the boys were younger. Some see a swing-set and think “Oh fun!” I see a swing-set and think “permanent paralysis!”
This week my son Sean marked a new Kaempfer family milestone. Despite being our youngest, Sean became the first Kaempfer boy to participate in a talent show. He and his buddies created a little skit about sports (set to music). It was pretty well received by his classmates.
Because this was the first time any of my boys had participated, it was also my first time in the audience of a talent show. And it was a bit of an eye-opener for me. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the experience. The boys and girls (mostly girls) were courageous and displayed some true talent. On the other hand, witnessing the talent show also made me confront my own talent show memories.
In my day, there was only one act per grade. First we had to win the talent show in our class, then win it for the entire grade, before we were put on the slate for the school-wide show.