Daddin': The Verb of Being a Dad

Inspired by the book, by Dion McInnis

Kitchen Raids

Our schedules are not the same, but somehow the rhythm of them work together well.  I harken back to sophomore physics class in high school when I learned about wave patterns and how they build on each other or level each other out.  My 24-year old’s schedule and mine must be each other, because we both have busy patterns that result in a calm, even, relaxed, joyful household.

When he returns home very late at night, long after I have gone to sleep and only a few hours before I wake up well before dawn, he leaves signals of his status.  If I hear nothing, he has probably gone straight from re-setting the alarm to bed.  If I hear the microwave, it means he is hungry and needs refueling before sleep.  If I see lights going off and on, he is moving from room to room, taking care of odds and ends tasks before hitting the hay.  Sometime exhaustion precludes me from sensing those things, but the morning evidence reveals much.

This morning, like many mornings, I first noticed the microwave door was open.  The low-wattage bulb barely lit the kitchen as the open door kept the light burning.  Clearly, heating food was part of his actions when he returned home. The plate on the counter had chicken bones (leftover fried chicken never lasts long in our house), as well as barely discernible traces of leftover mashed potatoes and cooked carrot coins. He must have had a hearty appetite when he got home!

I smile as I close the microwave door and rinse the dishes for the dishwasher.  I notice the box of leftover pizza is empty, only to find out shortly thereafter that he took the three pieces and put them in a storage bag for safe keeping in the refrigerator.  I suspect the pizza was either lunch today or will be dinner tonight.

I enjoy watching him grow as a man and in all the roles involved.  The tell-tale signs are everywhere, ranging from dirty plates to bags of boating or fishing gear, to fishing magazines and school books, from shoes in every room to the work uniform he wears as an operations manager.  I feel like an archaeologist, discovering my son’s life in the things I find.  It’s a good role, that.  When our schedules don’t allow for the overlap we enjoy for conversations, I learn by looking and listening.

A Lost Habit

Good habits are hard to create and maintain; bad habits seem to hang on quite easily.

I was in the habit of writing about life as dad, with recollections about the moments that comprise daddin’.  Then I published the book in 2010 and a lot of detours, bumps and curves came around.  I found it is harder to write about being a dad when there aren’t daily dad happenings.  Shame on me, because every day I am still dad, and now granddad to four granddaughters and a grandson on the way.

Watching from a distance as the little ones grow is certainly different than seeing my sons grow every day.  Also different is observing the growth of men, though I could not be more proud of how the three have grown as men, brothers, dads (two of them), spouses (two of them), productive men of integrity and values. I think back to the letter that comprised most of last chapter of the book — it was to my first granddaughter, and the first copy of the book arrived 48 hours before her birth — and how it described my sons and the type of men they were and were becoming.  Six years later, it is clear they are all those things and more.

I have lost the habit of writing about dad moments, and that is a loss to me, my sons and my grandchildren.  There are reasons — many that I can think of — that have nothing to do with being a dad that redirected my habit.

Good old habits that have been lost can be re-learned.  If you haven’t learned the habit of writing about being a parent or guardian, learn now; if you learned it and lost it, regain it.  Treasures reside in the letters, words, sentences and paragraphs.

 

A Moment to Remember Moments

It has been just over five years since the release of Daddin’:  The Verb of Being a Dad, which occurred only 48 hours before the birth of my first granddaughter.  A lot has happened since then, including the addition of three more granddaughters.  As of late, I have had a lot of moments reminding me of moments, but the moment in church this morning was among the most powerful.

The cry of the nearly newborn, the smiles of pride of the elementary age students bringing up the gifts for Offertory, the children in mother’s arms or father’s embraces or tended by older siblings.  Everywhere I gazed, I saw…moments.  While not all of them are memorable, they join together to create memories.  My fondest memories involved time with, near, around or watching my sons…like the ones I watched in church.

I describe the Daddin’ book as a book of moments, and my youngest son noticed the same thing before I had mentioned the concept to him.  He was almost 18 when I finished the book.  Already he could tell what the verb of being a dad is all about.  Moments.  I miss those moments.

I admit to not writing nearly as much about being a dad since the book was completed.  Some of it may have been project post-partum, and some may be that daddin’ in the moments when the children are around is very different than when they aren’t.  It is quite different when all the kids are working, developing their lives (two of them as dads), and no longer looking for the next time to play catch with their ol’ man.  That has taken some getting used to.

The moments are different now.  The chance to listen to stories about their lives is similar to the poem in Daddin’ when I don’t want my child to go to sleep…I want to hear all the stories of the day.  The desire remains, but the stories are different.  But I always enjoy listening.  And I look forward to hearing more stories from grandchildren.  Those will be moments of a different type, but they will make memories that will always fill my heart.

As fast as life moves, it pays to notice and remember the moments.

Family Day at the Ballpark

More than a quarter century ago, my first-born and I sat in the upper reaches of the Astrodome to watch the Astros play. He was an Astrobuddy and his daddy’s buddy in baseball. He began his addiction to America’s sport at an early age.

The Astrosbuddy program was the baseball dealer’s way of getting kids hooked, and bringing their parents’ wallet along with them. In modest times, which those were, we enjoyed the budget seats and the view of the game with little more than a shared soda and bag of peanuts, but we enjoyed the fun.

The other day, the now-grown Astrobuddy enjoyed an Astros-Yankees game in Minute Maid Park, along with his wife and first-born daughter, my friend and me. Each of us held different levels of interest, knowledge or engagement with the game, keeping a tasty mix of intensity, humor and entertainment to blend with the flavors of peanuts, hot dogs, and beer.

Late in the game, we found out there was a theme: Family Day. It was his birthday present, though I felt like I had received the greatest gift.

As the years go by faster and faster, the only clarity in the blur of moments is that nothing stands as clear and beautiful as family moments.

And then there were four…

…and I look at both my career and life plans differently.

Granddaughter (and grandbaby) number four arrived on May 15.  Coming in at nine pounds, two ounces, she might have been able to walk out of her mom’s womb.  Within an hour, she would pop her eyes open as if wanting to see all these funny things (people) who came together (family) to await her arrival.  The group was not large, but the heart was.

As we waited for her arrival, her sisters played in the waiting area while chowing down on double stuff Oreos and Rice Krispie treats.  I watched them play, listened to their laughter and witnessed their relationships develop.  I cannot be a casual, occasional observer to those changes, but I can’t live under the freeway overpass either.  There are plenty of options between those two positions.

The grandgirls, and those who follow, need to ride on my shoulders, takey horsey rides on my knees, listen to stories of their great grandparents and so much more.  I also hope they have growing-up experiences at the Walden I am trying to develop.

Anneliese Rose arrived, just as thousands of others did.  She became another element in the lens through which I see my life and purpose.

Life As A Dad and Granddad, a full Easter

Most of Easter Sunday I spent alone, but as a dad and granddad it was full in rich ways.

I received photos from my two married sons showing off their children with items that this bunny sent them for Easter.  I melted like the chocolate in their little hands.  My youngest son and I had a combination Easter dinner and celebration dinner because he found out he will be offered a promotion on Tuesday. The food was great, even if I do say so myself, and then we chatted over a beer and cigar to celebrate his great trajectory.  To use a term that I’ve used with the boys over the years as they matured and found new challenges:  “This is big boy decision time.”

Watching the boys grow and hearing their stories and thought processes, is a gift and a treasure.

Later in the evening, I was going to send an email to a friend who is very curious about my oldest son’s work with Texas A&M’s student bonfire.  As I searched for links to send him, I came across the gallery when my son and I photographed a cut session.  I guess I had forgotten about the page of our combined photography efforts.

Today has been a day of gifts and treasures because of fathers and sons:  God’s Son who rose, and the gift that is being a dad.

What’s Daddin’ about?

At a recent presentation to the Association of Business and Professional Women, I was asked about Daddin’.  I used the opportunity to explain and read the last chapter which is essentially a love letter to my first granddaughter who had not yet been born at the time I was writing the book.

They Never Fully Grow Up

My youngest son is 22 years old and tomorrow he interviews for a promotion at his workplace.  If the interview is successful, he will become the operations manager for a multi-million-dollar sales outlet.  All the while, he maintains his school, fishing, social life and relationship.  He’s juggling the elements of a man’s life.  I am fortunate to witness the growth, just as I have in various ways for his brothers as they have grown into the men they are, and the men they will be.  But they never fully grow up…thank goodness.

Today was grocery shopping day.  As he headed out this morning, I asked him to add to the list that we keep on the refrigerator any specific items that he wanted to be sure that I purchased on my evening run to the neighborhood Kroger.  As I left the house hours later, I took the list from the white note pad without giving it any attention.  I folded it around a small stack of coupons and headed out the door.

After perusing the produce department, I paused at the meat case to scan over the list to keep me on track for the evening’s shopping.  Many of the items are hastily written, so reading the list is sometimes a study in cryptography. Tonight was no different, except for the two items in his handwriting.  Clear as day, were his items:  pizza and Cap’n Crunch Cereal.  I held the list, chuckled and shook my head.  Inside the man is still some boy, and I hope it stays that way forever.

Later, I shared the observation of the list with him, complete with the context described above.  He laughed, “I guess my tastes haven’t caught up with the rest of me,” he said with a broad smile.

There’s nothing like daddin’.

To Breathe Is To See; To See Is To Listen

Inhale.  Exhale.  One breath at a time.  Each day, each moment.  If you have lost your breath, catch it. Then see anew.

With lungs full of air, I am enjoying the view of my sons at their respective ages of 33, 29 and 22.  (I also enjoy the view of the three granddaughters, 4, 1 and 1, but today’s message is about daddin’, not granddaddin’). I had been airless for quite a while; it is not a condition that I recommend staying in for very long.  They have a term for that!

Keeping abreast of my sons is a combination of watching Facebook, talking on the phone and conversations when paths cross; the oldest uses Facebook as if on a mission and his siblings reject the medium completely; the middle son places phone calls several times a week as part of his drive home from work and on weekends; and, the youngest lives with me so our paths cross when his crazy schedule (work, school and fishing) overlaps with my crazy schedule.  Of course, there is a mix of calls, emails and face-to-face for the scattered crew of three.  One of the verbs/chapters of the Daddin’ book is about listening, and the process is still as rewarding and valuable now with three men as it was then with three boys.  It is an honor and a gift to be able to “listen in” on their lives through whatever channels are afforded me.

Of course, all the verbs work together…listening leads to growing and playing, and all those things involve learning, and every breath involves loving.  (Those are some of the chapters of the book for those of you who have not read it).

No matter what verb we’re talking about, or what story I am hearing, or questions I am trying to answer, or….  it is living.  Living.  Each day, each moment, with lungs full of air.

The boys are men (though there is, and always will be, a bit of boy left in them), their lives are changing, their dreams are developing and in each opportunity to witness their lives I know in my heart that they are living and loving.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

And after about nine months

Where has the time gone for posting?  Life has happened, changes were needed in my job and now I am on a new adventure.  Amidst all the changes, one thing is for certain and it is the thing that has not ever changed.  There is no “job” like being a dad.  Just letting it soak in is cause for tears, and now that I have my feet back underneath me I intend to spend more time recording those feelings and stories, not unlike the years of doing so that led to the Daddin’ book.

Interestingly, the topic of daddin’ has come up quite a lot lately in various lunch meetings, random conversations and such.  My middle son texted me the other day to draw my attention to Pope Francis’ call for dads to be more involved in their kids’ lives.  I spent the entire day reaching out to various media outlets to share the daddin’ verb as it is exactly what the Pope called for.  The text message was all the more meaningful because he is a dad, too, with his daughter about to turn one.

I shared the concept with a woman at a recent Rotary lunch and tears welled in her eyes; I shared the concept of dads and their verb with a preacher’s mom and she was immediately drawn in to the message and the need to recognize dads and their important roles; and, I received a call a week or so ago with a request that I do a radio interview about being a dad…in 15 seconds.  Once the interview was over, I was told that the “interviewers” were part of the Howard Stern show.  My answers were genuine and not theatrical, so I imagine my episode won’t ever be saved on his record of shows.  Truth be told, I was proud of that interview…being pushed into a corner to provide counterpoints to absurd positions led me to a position of grace (I can’t think of any other term for me) to speak with nothing but love for the role of being a dad.  And now granddad.

I have been a granddad for four years now, and when May rolls around I will be the granddad to four little girls.

Part of the changes made over the last nine months (leaving my job of 13 years and a career path of 27 years) had to do with those little girls and their dads.  I was not happy with what that path was doing to the man that is their dad and granddad, and I could not abide them getting anything less than the real me.  I knew that changes were required before the damage became too great.  And all of that has been part of the drive to adjust, adjust, adjust my course until I got on the path of Empowered Creativity Institute, my new business.  All of it, ALL of the changes have been directed to getting back to the real me and helping others find their authentic selves.  What does that have with daddin’?  Everything. Every single verb of it.

As I regained my sense of Self, I would sometimes open the Daddin’ book to a random page to be reminded of the verbs (chapters) and the stories.  Life as dad is balance for me, and now I am again steadied to be fully granddad, too.

My journal has many entries of “Remember this story…” followed by a few cryptic notes.  And therein resides the message for this posting:  “Remember this story….” no matter how you can considering all else going on in life.  Remember them, record them, share them and make them part of your family story.

Watching my sons as they live their lives as men, spouses, sons…and fathers, (spouses and dads for two of them!) certainly fits all the chapters of daddin’, i.e., all the verbs of being a dad as outlined in the book:  havin’, learnin’, listenin’, lovin’, playin’, fishin’, growin’, leavin’, livin’.  Every moment is a blessing.

These two poems stand next to each other in the introduction of the book:

To call out to you, to many, to all
The joy of being
Father, dad, pop
To these three.

And

I have no more control over this
Than over my heart beating or
My lungs taking in breath.
My boy comes into my view
And I smile
And swell with pride and love.

Those thoughts and reactions are as real today as they ever were, and continues with each day as I hear their stories about their jobs, wives, significant others, friends, children, journeys, wonderments…all the things that comprise the lives of young men.  Two are married, and one is not; all are good men.  I don’t pretend to think they are perfect, but they follow well the message on my dad’s gravestone:  “He has left for us a most noble pattern.”  My sons are on noble paths.  The granddaughters are on wonderful paths, too, even at the sweet ages of 4, 1 and 1.

I am a nostalgic type.  I reminisce about being young and about having young ones around me.  There is much about raising the boys that I miss, sometimes desperately.  But, standing on more solid ground, I see that those times are the seeds of what is to come.

I will catch up on more of the stories in future posts and will spend more time in my journal, too.  I am back…as me, as dad and as granddad.  You need you, your children need you, and your grandchildren need you…to be….YOU.  Give yourself, your kids and your grandchildren the best possible you.