Daddin': The Verb of Being a Dad

Inspired by the book, by Dion McInnis

The Charlie Brown Tree

Christmas is tough.  I’m not alone in that.  This year was still a bit bumpy in terms of holiday spirit, but little granddaughter is helping.  And so did the Charlie Brown Tree.

My mom used to say that Christmas was for kids.  Clearly, she meant the holiday not the holy day.  And she was right.  This year, my first as a dad with no more teenagers was also my first as a granddad with a grandchild old enough to understand something was going on.  She is two; my youngest son is 20.  This Christmas provided an interesting confluence of losing and gaining a sense of holiday at the same time.  And lo and behold, the Christmas tree made a difference.

I didn’t have a tree at the house.  Just stockings hung by the chimney with care, each bearing a name:  one for each of the boys, for the dogs, for the daughters in-law, and granddaughter.  A few decorations on the mantel rounded out the festive feel, and Christmas was celebrated at my house on December 23.  I love “deepaw Christmas” because I get to smoke meats (way too much) and have everyone around for eating, talking and laughing.  On December 26, we all met at my new property in the woods.  Before little one could arrive, Santa put bows and ornaments on a small pine tree.  My frozen fingers felt like it was “job well done,” but when I looked at it later….well, it looked like Charlie’s tree.  And I recalled the time that mom and dad were going to forego a tree and then decided to buy one at nearly the last minute.  The nearly bare, tilting tree made us all laugh and mom vowed to never delay like that again. The look of the tree, the fond memories, the new memories being made (I also gave her this year a recordable book of The Charlie Brown Christmas) made for a special moment.  The tree will stay decorated on the property for as long as its decorations hold on.  And future grandchildren will get their trees, too.  Christmas holidays may be coming back as part of daddin’.

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Futures

I had the privilege of providing a book reading and presentation on my book Daddin’ to the La Porte Book Club the other day.  Having to fight back tears at times as I provided context for the poetry and stories that I read, I was constantly reminded that the best job that I have ever had is that of being a dad.  Most of the attendees did not worry about the holding back their tears.

There are rewarding times all along the way providing me stories for books, name for a boat (Memory Maker), and an ever-present sense of purpose.

As I write this, all three of the boys are doing things they love with people that matter to them.  One is working the bonfire project at Texas A&M, another is preparing sausage from the harvest of yesterday’s deer hunt, and another is fishing.  Their lives are full of passion, zeal, and reasonable expectations.  Every time I talk to them or watch them or listen to them, I feel good about their futures.  Add to that the budding life of the first grandchild and a simple truth confronts me:  being a dad is about futures.

The Edge of the Nest

The sight is familiar:  the young one stands at the edge of the nest, knowing in its heart and mind that the time to fly has arrived.  He spreads his wings and feels the air move across their surfaces, causing a natural lift.  What he wants to do—fly—is his call and comes naturally.  I see it in my 20-year old.  I’ve seen it before in his brothers, but this time it is different—he is the last from this nest.

All the signals are there; likewise, so too are the appearances of the wind moving across his wings, causing a lift that is both encouraging and scary.  He continues to grow as a young man:  a fisherman, student, employee, friend, son, brother and more.  The growth continues, the wind continues to blow.  Before him is the short distance down and the limitless horizons in front of him.  The risk of falling a bit is far outweighed by the chance to soar with few limits.

Two years?

Lillian–“Lil Girl,” as her dad, my oldest son, calls her–will be two years old soon.  Very soon.  Two years.  TWO years.  Two YEARS.  No matter how I place the emphasis, there is no easy way to comprehend how fast time has flown and how little of it I have seen.  I can’t change the pace of the former but I can change the latter.  I have to.

Two years ago, I was awaiting the delivery of my first copy of my book Daddin’.  It arrived 48 hours before Lil Girl’s birth and her dad received my copy.  “Well, son, welcome to the fun of being a dad,” I said…or something to that effect…as we stood in the waiting room of the hospital where Lil was about to be born.  Then I blinked, and now it is today.

Is it the momentum gained by my own aging process that made the last two years go so fast, or was it the too-few times that I spent time with her?

The benefit of daddin’ is that all the time appears to be in front.  For granddaddin’, the bulk of time is behind me. For Lil’s second birthday, I am going to give myself a gift for the years to come…more time with her.

How did I get so far behind?

Five months since I posted?  How could that be?

Lot of reasons, but thankfully one of them is being busy as a dad and granddad.  There has been (not enough) fishing with Cameron, seeing little Lil, helping print photos for Dion’s first photo exibition, watching Justin and his wife compete in a mud run…oh, and trying to keep up the house.

Other life stuff has gotten in the way, but the simple truth is that I have not taken the time to enjoy, to notice, to reflect and to write.  I will get back to it now; I need it.  Sometimes the creative things that we avoid during life’s challenges are the exact same things we need to help us navigate the challenges.

Moms have a verb; dads have a title….that is the problem

I contrived the verb Daddin’ because I believe that fathers need a verb that they can carry with them like moms have the verb “to mother” as part of their lives.  Dads only have the noun, the title.  It sounds simple, but I believe it describes and predicts the problems about fatherhood in our society.

If children grew up hearing there was a verb for being a dad–fathering a child only suggests procreation–perhaps young men would have different impressions about what it means to live out the verbs of being a dad instead of merely claiming the title of “father.”  And if all a young man knows is that he holds the title…what is he to do in the day to day business of being a father?

Verbs are words of condition or action.  Dads must own fully their conditions as humans with emotions, strengths and foibles and live out their lives in action.  Titles are noun and tend to be static.  Parenthood is anything BUT static.

Fishin’…it is in the blood

Some of my fondest memories with my dad occurred while we fished.  And among the many great memories with my sons, fishing played a big part.  In fact, among the verbs that serve as chapter titles for the book, one of them is fishin’.

For Lillian’s 2011 Christmas–her first to be old enough to be able to use anything that appeared under the tree or in the stockings hung with care–her youngest uncle, Cameron, bought her a pink princess fishing rod.  A little spincast rig.  It quickly became her favorite toy. Cameron, who has taken fishing further than any McInnis has (he is on the Hobie fishing team now), was very proud of the gift and then of her love of it.

Dion called the other day to remind me that Lillian loved the rod and that she would grab the rod and walk up to him saying “fish.”  He described how they would get on the sofa (boat) and fish.  I could see the image as clearly in my head as if he handed me a photograph to add to my cardboard Daddin’ box.  As McInnis stories are wont to do, this one continued.  After a while of imaginary fishing, they used their collective rich imaginations and sense of play to take the sport to the next level of reality, particularly for a living room.

He went on to describe tying liver doggie snacks onto the end of the line so they could fish and catch something live…their beloved family dog, ACe.  I bust out laughing at the scene in my mind; my heart melted at the thought of the laughter that father and daughter shared; and, I smiled gently at the memories that were being made.  I trust their fun was catch and release.  It is good practice; parenting is catch and release, over and over and over again.

Granddaddin’ Watchin’ Daddin’…the cycle continues

This is my first posting on a new blog that takes me to phase two of Daddin’.  The perspective of the book was that of being son to a father and father to three sons, and now I am granddad to a grandaughter.

If you haven’t read the book or its introduction (free preview of the introduction by clicking on the book cover), I coined the term as a verb for dads.  Mothers can mother all their lives, but when you say you saw a man fathering a child, the connotation is only biological.  So, I invented daddiin’ to describe the verb of being a dad.  Each chapter is a verb, full of musings, stories, poetry and journal entries.  As the cosmos would have it, I received my author’s copy of the book less than 48 hours before Lillian was born.  I gave my oldest son his copy of the book (my author’s copy) in the waiting room of the hospital where Lillian was to come to this world.

Now that she is developing her personality and characteristics and sense of humor and….it has been easier to see the interactions between her and her parents.  Since my son is a freelance web designer, he has more time with her and their fun and games are wonderful to watch.  I am learning granddaddin’ while he is learning daddin’ of his own style.

From this blog I will share stories of the next phase of daddin’.  I hope you enjoy.