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Ummmm…what exactly did I do?

August 30, 2012 9 comments

Becoming a father is by far the most joyful thing I’ve ever done, but there are some concerning parts also. I hear about people who say they don’t want to be parents because they’re so unhappy with society that they don’t want to bring potential kids into the world to have to face it. That is far from my view, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t understand the viewpoint sometimes. I think of how much harder it is nowadays on families and kids, and how much higher the stakes in everything about life seem, with the cost of living increasing so much.  I don’t even want to think about how much college will cost 16 years from now.  I also think about how it will be for my son being a biracial kid in an America that I don’t believe is even close to post-racial yet, no matter how much we hear that it is.

I also think about how society and media will influence him no matter how much we try to keep it from him. I love the fact that he seems to like watching sports at such a young age, but some of the commercials they show during games (particularly NFL) are not even close to being appropriate for kids. If its not creatures warring with each other in the latest video game ad, it’s  buildings blowing up and people in sexually suggestive scenes in ads for the latest cop drama or action movie. I remember when I was young the negative attention was on the beer commercials, but I’ll gladly take the Miller High life guy trying to spread the high life or the Corona commercial where the couple on the airplane imagine they’re on the beach over many of the other ads they show.  Likewise, I also worry about some of the music and video games that are out now, how easy it is to take a wrong turn in cyberspace, “sexting”, etc.

But then again, I have some perspective – these are all first world problems.  I know there are also fathers out there who just want clean water for their kids.

Like I said, I don’t think there’s any way to shelter him from all of this…it’s out there and he will be exposed to it one way or the other.  I expect that we will try our best but also talk to him about stuff when he sees it to help him process what he is seeing and hearing.

Categories: fatherhood

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

August 27, 2012 Leave a comment

As I was writing the previous post, I found myself editing out a lot of extra details about the 1999 Sox/Yankees series and 90’s college basketball, because they weren’t really relevant to the point of the post. I still may have left too much in there, but the exercise prompted me to write a second post more formally connecting sports to fatherhood.

I had not thought about it this way until I decided to write this post, but in a way, my son himself is a living connection of fatherhood and sports. In my family’s culture we name our children only after people who are deceased. My son’s first name is after my maternal grandfather, who was a great man and a great father. He wasn’t a huge sports fan but he was an avid runner and golfer. He began to follow sports when me and the other grandkids got older, because if it was important to us, then it was important to him, and he took interest too. My son’s middle name is after Jackie Robinson, something I will write about in much more detail at a later date. For now I will say this – in addition to all of his other accomplishments, Jackie was also a great father and family man. These things were consciously considered when making the decision of my son’s name.

The topic I wanted to write about is the classic scenario of going to a baseball game. I still remember a few things about the first game my dad took me to at age 5. Carney Lansford hit a home run, Yaz did not, and my dad let his guard down from his typical stance that whenever we went anywhere we didn’t get much in the way of souvenirs. I remember that he bought me pretty much everything I had asked for that day.

Fast forward to 2011 and the story of Shannon Stone. I know that tragedy strikes every day, and that every day children lose fathers to terrible situations such as war, car accidents, heart attacks, street violence, etc. But there’s something so inherently backward about a kid losing his father because his father tried to catch a baseball for him at a baseball game.

When it was announced that the Rangers planned to build a statue dedicated to Shannon and Cooper Stone, my first reaction was that it seemed kind of creepy, but when I learned how much the family seemed to support the idea, it had my support too. When the statue was done, I saw pictures of it and decided that I wanted to take a picture of my son and I at the statue the next time we are at a game. We got that opportunity earlier this summer, when we went on our annual trip to see the Red Sox play the Rangers with a group of New England transplants like me. We were definitely not the only father/son duo to take this picture either. In fact, when it was our turn to be close enough for my wife to snap a shot, some guy jokingly told me that only Rangers fans can take pictures with the statue. I not-so-jokingly replied that this was about fatherhood, not the Rangers or Red Sox.

Until my son gets to be about age 5, I’m not sure how many more times we will go to major league games. Until he develops the attention span and ability to sit for longer periods of time, the minor league team with the cool playground at their stadium might be the better way to go. In the long run, I’m pretty sure I want to have a tradition where every year we go to the big league park for Jackie Robinson day and then again for one of the games the Red Sox are in town.

I *think* this is a fatherhood post…but not 100% sure…

August 23, 2012 2 comments

I have a couple of lasting memories from this summer’s Olympic games. One is when my son decided that synchronized diving was “RJ’s jump,” his way of saying that it was only for him to be able to watch/enjoy and not me or anyone else. Then there were the memories of the moments themselves; seeing Serena Williams finally get her singles gold while dominating the final match in the process, seeing Andy Murray avenge his Wimbledon loss to Roger Federer, and seeing team USA win the gold in men’s basketball. In the latter case, it was not only the game itself that was the lasting memory, it was watching the reaction of the team and noticing an obvious bond between Lebron James and Coach K.

My wife thinks I’m too much into sports simply because I make it a point to watch a lot of games. What she doesn’t really understand is how it was years before we met, when sports really did mean a little too much to me. I can remember being legitimately depressed when the 1999 Red Sox season ended. There was a tremendous high of beating Cleveland so dramatically, which made losing the next round to the Yankees even worse than it might have been otherwise. If you had asked me back then, I would have said I hated the Yankees. Nowadays, with a little more perspective gained by years of life experience, I better understand the gravity of the word “hate.” I still don’t want the Yankees to win, but I wouldn’t use the word hate to refer to them.

All of that being said, Lebron James and Mike Krzyzewski are not two people I typically root for to win. As a Celtics fan, our rivalry with Lebron predates the fiasco that was “the decision”, and after that the rivalry only intensified. As for Coach K, while I’m not a diehard fan of any particular college team, I’ve always been on the UNC side of the rivalry. The Duke teams I grew up watching were really good, but there was something about way they carried themselves turned me off. It wasn’t just a simple swagger like Michigan’s Fab 5 or the great UNLV teams of that same era. There was also a perception of entitlement that went along with how good they were.

So this brings me back to the gold medal game. Team USA won the gold, and then, it happened. In the absence of a Gatorade cooler, Lebron took two bottles of water to dump over Coach K’s head – a mini Gatorade water bath. They then faced each other with looks of mutual admiration and exchanged some words and then a hug. During the celebration, all of the team USA players and coaches looked elated that they had won, and this showed in how they congratulated each other, but with Lebron and Coach K, it was different than any other reaction between any other two people involved in that game. For this moment my prior thoughts about either of them didn’t matter.

The fact that Lebron grew up without his father has been widely reported. It’s also widely thought of that many college coaches, especially the older and more established ones, act as father figures in certain cases. Lebron didn’t go to college and so he missed out on his first chance to have that type of relationship with a college coach, It makes me wonder if being around Coach K as much as he has through two Olympic runs has made this type of relationship develop between them. I can’t know for sure, but I definitely know what I saw. Clearly, it was something special enough to compel me to write this.

WTHDHGTF? #1 – trash talking my wife’s car.

August 21, 2012 1 comment

Sometimes when my son does something out of nowhere, I know where he got the idea it from…it’s either something he got from me, my wife, my mother in law, from school, or from a song/tv show.  For example, during the rehearsal for my brother’s wedding, he and the other toddlers were practicing walking down the aisle holding hands.  They had gotten almost the whole way, and then he suddenly shouted “all fall down” and sat down on his bottom, ala “Ring Around the Rosie.”

Other times, I have no idea. Thus the acronym title of the post, which stands for “Where the hell did he get that from?” I’m calling this #1 because I’m sure there will be multiple posts like this as time goes on.  But for now we are at 22 months. Yesterday we were leaving to go to his school. In continuation of his fascination with things that go, he has begun to differentiate between the two cars we have and wanted to know which car we were going to take. As we walked into the garage and he asked “mama’s car?” I told him no, we were going to take “dada’s car.”   He then proceeded to walk up to my wife’s car, leaned in toward it like he was getting in it’s personal space, and said “no mama’s car!…no mama’s car!” – all while doing the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag at the passenger side door. I get the idea that he thinks of vehicles as having personas and therefore may try to talk to the car. He even said “bye dada’s car” after we had parked at the school and left it as we began to walk inside. This is the same kid who watches Thomas and friends.  But I have nooooo idea where he got the finger wag from, nor the idea to trash talk my wife’s car because we took mine instead.

Categories: fatherhood, WTHDHGTF? Tags:

the intro…

August 16, 2012 5 comments

I’m not a writer, and I never was one other than when I had to be for school and work assignments. However, reading Etan Thomas’ book “Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge” made me want to write about being a father, just like countless celebrities did in contribution to his book. The book is certainly the inspiration for this blog, however, being a student of hip hop, I felt it appropriate to pay homage to legendary emcee Edo.G and his classic “Be A Father To Your Child” by naming it after how the song starts. I think that connecting the book and the song is appropriate due to the fact that they both have the ultimate message: “Be There”. To stay on the topic of hip hop for another second, another song worth paying homage to is Talib Kweli’s song “Joy”, for two reasons. One is that Talib is one of the guys who contributed to Etan’s book, and another is that his song is how I made the announcement of my son’s birth on my facebook page. I posted the link to the youtube and wrote “if you want to know whats been going on for me since 2:28pm yesterday, listen to this song.”

I think I always knew that being a father would be a special thing, and it took becoming one to truly validate this. Before becoming one myself, my first glimpse into this reality was watching it happen for Eroc, who among other things is an exceptional photographer and a nasty emcee from the group Foundation Movement, but more importantly is the truest friend I have besides my wife, and one of the best fathers I know. Before my own son, his son was the youngest baby I have ever held, just a couple of hours old. I still remember that day like yesterday. First it was the nervousness of waiting to get the news, and then getting the text from him telling me it happened, the room number of the hospital he was in, and to come see my nephew. Of course I loved seeing the baby, but seeing Eroc in his first few hours of fatherhood was just as meaningful. That pride in being a father was abundantly exuding from him in every movement he made.

Some people say this about sports, but I think fatherhood is the ultimate bonding opportunity for men, at least for those who are fortunate enough to experience it. I don’t know whether to call it a club or a fraternity or whatever, but there’s something bonding about fatherhood. Etan wrote about feeling the bond of fatherhood when passing another father pushing a stroller and exchanging a look. My son wasn’t even out of the hospital yet the first time I felt the bond. To get to my wife’s room you had to pass the nursery, and my wife and son had to be there a few days longer than we had expected, so I had to be in and out because father’s hours were 6am-10pm. One day I was walking by the nursery and saw a guy standing in the exact same place I had been only hours earlier, looking through the window at his child the same way I had been looking at mine before he was moved from the nursery to be with my wife. This guy and I exchanged a quick look, and that was my first time sharing the bond with someone.

Another aspect of this fraternity that I’ve gotten a lot of experience with as a rookie dad is the phenomenon of older dads you come across feeling as if it’s their duty to share some wisdom with you, even though you’re complete strangers. It’s usually the same message, along the lines of “cherish every moment, because before you know it your son will be a teenager and things will be different.” One situation like this stands out beyond the rest, for a reason that is somewhat sad. It was the week of my brother’s wedding, and we were at the airport going back (to what I call) home for the wedding. My son was 20 months and for him this meant two things, one was that he enjoyed practicing his mastery of words and language, and the other is that he had become infatuated with anything big that goes – trucks, trains, busses, and of course, airplanes. We were at the gate waiting for boarding to start, and my son was looking out the window and yelling as loud as he could “airplane!…truck!…big truck!…airplane!” at all of the planes, fuel trucks, and luggage trucks he saw. Several people were watching him with amusement, but one guy sitting two seats over from me had an uneasy look on his face and I wondered why. After a few moments he finally came out and said it…he told me that his kids are now teenagers, and that he missed a lot of stuff because he has the kind of job where he always has to travel for work. That’s why he was alone in the airport on a random Wednesday. I forget what I ended up saying back to him, but I remember not really knowing what to say.

That’s going to wrap up this introductory post. I’m not sure where I’ll go from here or how often I’ll write, but hopefully other people will connect with this post in one way or another.