At the end of yesterday’s post, I kind of unintentionally set myself a challenge–regarding my hoping to see Talented British actor Richard Armitage in a fatherly romantic comedy role one day. And today is Father’s Day in the U.S. So this little father themed short story popped into my head. I hope that you enjoy it.
And if you are a father and whether your father is living–or he solely resides in the memories of your heart, as mine does–I wish you all a Happy Father’s Day everyone!
A programming note: Ch. 25 of “Love is a Choice” will publish on Monday, June 17th, then return to its usual Sunday posting schedule.
Cheers! Grati ;->
“I am the Daddy: My Humorous Journeys through Fatherhood”
(An original contemporary short story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace; All rights reserved)
I. I am the Daddy
My wife Jillian and I meeting and falling in love with each other in our mid twenties was both fortuitous–she is the love of my life–and amusingly disastrous. I am nothing if not melodramatic in my forty second year of life. And me? I am John Jack Pratt. I know, I know. Jack and Jill went up the hill. But Jillian and I didn’t really think about it until the kids came along and we shared nursery rhymes with them. If you could see me now, you would understand how thoroughly I have changed from before we were married. Although, my wife tells me that I am still a fine figure of a man–tall, dark, handsome, muscular. And I still look good in a suit. However, I have inextricably moved from the realm of heartthrob to that of father in the blink of an eye. I am the Daddy. You would also see the slight grimace on my face from wearing comfortable clothes that I adore, but my children find embarrassing. I like my soft weave button down sweaters–even if their sleeves are too short for my long arms, I just push them back to my elbow. And the hill of yet to be paid bills, serve as a constant reminder of the juggling act that my wife and I must perform. Do we pay the electricity, the internet, or the water bill this month, or the kid braces bill? Life is often a challenge–but never boring.
And my life goals have changed direction as well. There is less me and more our in my and our decision making. Looking out for others’ needs before my own needs comes with the territory of being a husband and a father. And parenting is a full time job that is eased by having a loving partner to help shoulder the burdens. And Jillian and I by no means take our loving relationship for granted. Though not ideal, our date nights consist of romantic trysts at 1:00am–once we are assured that the household is fast asleep and not likely to need something from us. As a result, we don’t get much sleep. But then, sleep is overrated when it comes to family life.
And don’t get me started on our adorable children whom I love more than life itself. After all, I gave up all notions of me having a life as soon as they started coming along. Ha ha ha! Now now, I am being facetious. No one explains to you about becoming a father, that the center of one’s universe suddenly shifts to become your children, irrevocably and blessedly. I truly understood the concept of love when our first child was born. This tiny little person existed because Jillian and I made her–more about that later. Gone are my selfish hopes to take a carefree bicycle trip around the U.S. during the Summer months by myself. Besides, Jillian would kill me for leaving her alone to fend for herself with the children, and I wouldn’t blame her.
No I have Summer camps, and softball, and soccer teams to ferry our children back and forth to in the hope that they will be too occupied to get into mischief. Like the time that our middle daughter wanted soup and she put the metal tin can in the microwave to heat it up–without even removing the lid. I shake my head in disbelief. Well, she was only eight at the time. And then there was our eldest daughter who–unbeknownst to her mother and I–would regularly keep her younger sisters up an hour past their bed time to practice styling their hair. The result of which was, Jillian and I would have extremely sleepy and difficult to awaken daughters the next morning. This was especially frustrating on school nights since kids need to be bright eyed and eager for school the next day. So not happening. We were lucky to get them into non-mismatched clean clothes, hand them their correct back pack–color coded for each child, my idea–and shepherd them onto the correct bus. Oh, and did I mention? Our girls are now attending three separate schools this coming school year, too? A high school, a middle school, and an elementary school. Our daughters going to three different schools makes coordinating school functions and activities a challenge–hitting the multiple store sales for after Thanksgiving bargains is more easily accomplished. Ha!
II. Daddy to Daughters
But, my daughters are my treasures. Who are these little darlings? Well! My princesses are Lizzie fourteen, Eleanor ten, and Emma six–Jillian named our girls after her favorite Jane Austen heroines. And our daughters are each the picture of their mother’s beauty and personality–loving, giving and kind. With my daughters possessing open upturned faces of such angelic beauty, that my eyes brim with tears whenever I gaze upon them. That is, they are angelic until they want something. Then my daughters turn into devilish Anne Boleyns in search of a crown. While I become the Cromwellian agent through which their desired object can be obtained or denied–a school dance dress for Lizzie, a Facebook account for Eleanor, and a cell phone for Emma. No, no, and yes.
I mean really, what self respecting father buys the perfect dress for his newly freshman in high school daughter Lizzie who wants to attend the Fall Football Homecoming dance, but hasn’t been asked yet because school won’t even start until next month? Please. And when exactly did my little Lizzie grow bosoms? They just popped out one day. I can barely cope. However Jillian out voted me on the dress–as wife and mother her input counts more heavily than mine–appropriately so. And after all, the dress was a discounted store display stock item from the previous Spring’s proms–so it was a bargain at only $300. Ha! So much for the car payment this month.
And in my view, Facebook and other social media are simply designed to introduce our children to the world of adults far sooner than they are able to understand the complexities of it and how missteps of revealing too much information about their lives have consequences for them in the future. I stood firm. When I was a kid, if we wanted to talk to our friends, we ran across the street and rang their door bell–sometimes, we didn’t even knock but walked right in. In the end, we did let Eleanor have a Twitter account–I shrug my shoulders sheepishly.
However the cell phone as a means of maintaining contact with our newly school bus riding to all day kindergarten Emma last year seemed eminently sensible as I prided myself. Emma just didn’t need the unlimited texting option, nor did we need the cost. We ration texting in our family–draconian, I know. LOL! It’s just that I want Emma to learn to read and write properly–not in abbreviations that I can’t even decode. Such as, what does CD 9 mean? I see it on my daughters’ cell phone displays all the time whenever I peek over their shoulders.
III. Heir Apparent
However, my daughters are my joy. And I had willingly resigned myself to being surrounded by estrogen for the rest of my life after our third daughter Emma was born six years ago. Jillian and I have been married almost fifteen years now. We’re in our early forties, we’re settled. And Jillian would not even listen the few times I thought that I had her in the right mood and I broached the topic of us trying one more time for a boy. She said her breeding days were over, period. Jillian would cover her ears, and flap her tongue around like she was scat singing. But a man likes a son to carry on his name–so I never entirely gave up hope. And then the start of the school year happened last September with all of them in school at the same time–if not in the same school. The house was blissfully quiet–save for our snoring dog, Rufus. Jillian and I looked at each other, squealed with glee, and ran upstairs to make love with no chance of being interrupted–in daylight hours, no less. In fact, we were a little shy, but we got over that quickly. It is amazing what feeling like you are acting like lovesick teenagers again can do for one’s love life. Ha ha ha!
And in our romantic zeal? Well, we forgot to use a condom or her diaphragm–and it was Jillian’s fertile period. Oops! So, nine months later to the day, our little prince was born–Dale John Pratt, DJ. That’s my boy! I will be sixty years old when DJ starts college eighteen years from now. So my retirement will have to go on the back burner until I get his college paid off. But I won’t be an old Dad. If forty is the new thirty, then sixty will be the new fifty. Besides, no matter what age a parent is, we still have the capacity to embarrass our kids–just one of the perks!
DJ is now two months old. And I know that when he smiles, it is not just gas anymore, I think. And DJ is just starting to get a personality to him. Well, if you call DJ peeing in my face, him having a personality. Though, I don’t think he was making a commentary on my ability as a father. Ha! At least getting peed on in my face was one thing that I didn’t have to worry about with our daughters. But now I have the diaper changing system down pat. I always cover the pee pee–his, not mine–as I am changing him into a fresh diaper. But good lord, DJ has stinky poos! And you haven’t earned your parent stripes until you have been through a bout of baby diarrhea. The poor little fella also developed diaper rash and cried mightily with the inflammation. So we broke out the soothing tush paste ointment tube–rubbing it all over his tush–and soon DJ felt much better.
But here is the thing. Why do manufacturers put wholly dissimilar products into the exact same tube like dispensers? Yup! You guessed it! Early one morning in the dark of the bathroom–my eyes couldn’t handle any light just yet after a sleepless night being up with a fussy baby DJ–was when I grabbed for the toothpaste, but unknowingly slathered my toothbrush with DJ’s diaper rash paste ointment. Oh my god! A worse tasting experience you will never have! Blech! I am shuddering even thinking about it now. It took me an hour to wipe the ointment out of my mouth, teeth, and tongue–having to stop several times to gag–and then trying to reclaim my mouth’s freshness with rinsing my mouth out with a whole bottle of minty flavored mouthwash, to no avail. My wife wouldn’t kiss me for two days–not until my mouth no longer smelled, nor tasted, like our son’s tush. Frankly I couldn’t blame her.
Another fatherhood experience with my middle daughter Eleanor is still wincingly fresh in my mind, since it happened just last Spring. But the lingering embarrassment is finally waning. You see, Jillian was about to give birth to our fourth child–whom we now know is our son DJ–and she didn’t feel well enough to take our ten year old Eleanor to a Mother-Daughter activity at her then elementary school. So Jillian asked me to pinch hit for her–she sadly forgetting what the event was. I said sure! Nor did Eleanor enlighten me either about the event beforehand, since she had been kept in the dark about it. It was a surprise–in more ways than one.
As Eleanor and I walked into her fourth grade classroom one Friday afternoon–of a teacher’s institute day that the kids did not have regular school on–I did think it was odd that no other fathers were there, even though it had been billed as a Mother-Daughter activity. But then, I puffed up with pride that I was taking time off from work for my little girl. However, then reality set in as everyone took their seats in the cramped student desks and the school nurse started playing a video on the large screen in the front of the classroom. Then I knew what the surprise was. It seems that when young girls reach a certain age–around ten years old in fourth grade–the school sponsors a Becoming a Woman activity to make sure that all girls are receiving the necessary information.
If I could have slunk underneath the student desk chair I was sitting on, I would have. But desk chairs for small fourth graders, are not necessarily designed for full grown 6 foot 2 inch tall men like myself. So I just had to tough it out. At least the room was dark while the video was playing–and no one could see my splotchy red embarrassed face. I looked over at my daughter Eleanor sitting next to me and she was agog with the opening princess images in the video. Then there were also the usual flower petals opening, with bees buzzing around fertilizing them, metaphor. Seriously? When I was this age, my Dad sat me down and gave me two pieces of advice. First, women are to be loved, honored, respected, and cherished. And second, always cover your rig. Sparing advice, I know. But my friends and I filled in the blanks. Not so for little girls, because they have to be wary of little boys wanting to cover their rigs with them.
Before I even knew it, my little girl was on the cusp of womanhood–or at least soon to be menstruating. And I would now be buying women’s products for a third woman in my household. The ease with which I admit that belies the total embarrassment I felt when I made my first foray into a grocery/pharmacy store to buy feminine products–for a sick at home wife, Jillian. Happily, a nice grandmotherly lady recognized my inexperience and distress and she helped me decipher my wife’s wishes with regard to size, wings or not, and such. Who knew that there was as much variety in feminine products as there are tools at a hardware store? No, don’t go there.
Oh if only that kindly grandmother could have been with me last Spring as the Becoming a Woman video unfolded further. I started to become really anxious as the clinical anatomical illustrations appeared on the screen. At least no genitalia were fully fleshed out–so to speak. The little girls in the room were nodding their heads as if they understood that the reproduction being described–in such general detail as to be completely useless–would possibly be their own experiences in ten to fifteen years. God willing, not before then. Frankly, I don’t even want to imagine my little girls making babies with their future husbands. And yes, that is the only way I will become a grandfather–no modern lifestyle out of wedlock pregnancies for my little girls. If the men want the milk, they have to buy the cow. And then the video was over and the lights came up, with the school nurse asking if anyone had any questions. The mothers and I just smiled in relief. It was over–or so we thought.
Then to our mutual chagrin, some of the daughters did have questions–ten year olds not being shy, but rather inquisitive. In particular, Eleanor wondered if since her Mommy was about to give her a little brother or sister–we had chosen not to know the sex of our baby before it was born–then she asked if her Mommy and her Daddy had done reproduction? I was mortified as all eyes turned to me. The girls were eager to learn my secret as the only Daddy in the room. And their mothers were clearly thinking payback, with thinly veiled amusement curling on their lips. I did not want to reveal something so personal. But my wife’s already well known about to pop pregnant condition did not allow me any plausible deniability in my culpability regarding her pregnancy. So I punted my answer to Eleanor. I smiled and said Yes Dear, we are soon to be blessed with our fourth child.
My daughter Eleanor looked at me quizzically, then she looked at the screen with the bee pollinating a flower image frozen there, then she looked back at me again. And Eleanor probed further. Sorry, poor choice of words. Daddy, if the bee landing on the flower makes a new flower each time, does that mean that each …? Gratefully, the school nurse intervened and deflected a potentially squirm inducing question to me from my daughter. Not necessarily dear. Shall we conclude with our refreshments? The school nurse stood up and redirected everyone over to the cookies and punch that we enjoyed for ten minutes. I have never been so glad to see my daughter sugared up in my life. At least while she was munching and sipping, Eleanor couldn’t ask me more questions that I will happily defer to her mother about. Then each little girl received a pink canvass bag with some brochures, feminine products samples, and treats in it. While the mothers and I received our own canvass gift bags with helpful materials in them, too. Well for me, the peppermints came in handy–I gave Jillian the rest of it.
V. Fatherhood Redux
Suffice it to say that I am chastened and in awe of parents with more kids than Jillian and I co-parent. Our four children are plenty. I am a doting and loving Dad being their soccer coach, chores assigner, diaper deputy, laundry captain, and bedtime storyteller, etc. And I will happily defer to my wife regarding the reproduction education of our daughters. Thankfully, I have ten years to go before my son DJ will be old enough to need the two talking points chat that I received from my father. My gleeful role will be to intimidate and criticize any boys my daughters have as dates, boyfriends, or fiancés. Because I vow that no boy or man is good enough for my little girls whom I taught to dance by having them stand on the tops of my shoes as I danced around the room with them. However I know that my daughters’ future happinesses will one day shift from my wife and I to their husbands and their own families that they create together. And I must accept this with equanimity–grandchildren being the price that I require. Because there is one thing that I have learned about becoming a father–now four times over–my life revolves around them. I am the Daddy. And I am completely cool with that.
Author’s Nota Bene: It is my guess that if my Becoming a Woman genre video that I saw in elementary school had had talented British actor Richard Armitage narrating–as he does with “The Great Sperm Race” documentary from 2009 (see video below by Md.Obaej Tareq)–I would have paid much closer attention. Ha!:
Author’s dedication: For my late father, who taught me how to dance when I was a little girl, by having me stand on his shoes.
References, some also hyperlinked above
1) The story logo is a photo manip of two images:
a) a man holding up his child is from MS Office Clip Art found at http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/results.aspx?qu=babies&ex=2#ai:MP900409516|mt:2|
b) Richard Armitage’s head (masked, color) from the NYC 2012 Hobbit Promos found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/NYHobbitPromo/album/NYC-VictoriaWill-01.jpg
2) “CD9” means “Parents are around” as defined at a texting acronyms dictionary found at http://www.netlingo.com/acronyms.php
3) Scat singing of sounds that don’t make up words, such as la la la is described at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scat_singing