10 Armpit Hairs

Frazetta the Incredible

Here’s my list for the ten best Dad-dito moments of 2012. These are in no particular order.

  1. My son got his first armpit hair and has underarm body odor. He is now wearing an adult size shoe. Puberty is around the corner. But the happy smile on my son’s face as he lifted his arm to show off his BO has been more than worth the price of this early transition. He is slowly emerging as a sexual being, one hair and smell at a time. “Hey Dad-dito, smell this!” has taken on a whole new meaning.
  2. My son read a book about puberty called What’s Going On Down There, by Gravelle and Castro. He laughed at the big nose/small penis jokes inside and the cartoon line drawings. It had a section about being Gay and a section on girls and provoked discussion for a good month afterwards. He read it cover to cover. I can’t recommend this book for boys enough (age 10-14).
  3. We saw The Hobbit together and loved it. We saw John Carter of Mars together and loved it. My son chose to see these movies with me over seeing them with his friends. That won’t happen much longer so I’m grateful for these moments while I have them. This was the year we graduated to live action films. We still see lots of animated films and that is good because I love animated films also but a corner was turned.
  4. Mom-ita and I survived M-ito going to sleep-away camp for two weeks. We survived. He survived. I don’t know if he’s going back again this summer but… we all learned something about being apart from each other. I learn over and over again how much I love my son and my wife. And I will never forget how it felt to say goodbye.
  5. Ratzo’s zombie apocalypse almost took over the world on my son’s birthday. For the third year in a row my son asked me to create a live roleplaying save-the-world from super villain Ratzo birthday adventure. He says he wants a fourth go at it. I hope I have it in me.
  6. My son said he has classes that he enjoys in school. Seriously, this year, 5th grade, he actually said Fridays are his favorite day at school and he does not want to miss it. I practically had a heart attack. He has a day he wants to go to school! His favorite classes are Drama (they play great theatre games) which he has twice on Friday, and Percussion (he loves the xylophone). The only thing that would make it better would be if he had art class too.
  7. My son read all 24 books in The Warriors series. He loved this series so much he actually said, “I wish this didn’t have to end.” What else can I say?
  8. My son played soccer at school on their B-team. This was the first time he’s ever played an organized team sport. They lost all of their games but scored goals in 3 of their 5 games. It was wonderful watching him play. He says he didn’t enjoy it but I think he enjoyed the experience overall. Mostly I enjoyed going to two of the games, standing on the sidelines, and watching the same way my father did with me when I played baseball, football, and rugby. My father came to both games also so for a few moments in time we watched M-ito play together.
  9. M-ito received his purple belt in Taekwondo. He is 60% of the way to his black belt. Watching him do his forms, break boards, and spar was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve done as a father. He was near perfect in all three aspects, though he had to persevere through hitting his board with his knuckles six times before the board finally broke. That’s character and guts. Ouch.
  10. Hurricane Sandy left my Rockaway in-laws homeless and Pop-pop, my father in=law, living with us for two months while the ground floor of his home was rebuilt. M-ito gave up his room and slept with us. For a few weeks one of Mom-itas sisters stayed with us also on the living room couch. Many nights were spent with the three men sitting together on the sofa watching The Big Bang Theory. We survived the holidays together. We’re all still talking so I count it a success. I also have an image of my shirt-less father in-law walking around our apartment scratching his stomach that I can’t get rid of and a few moments of we’re living in close quarters, I have no privacy, somebody get me out of this nut-house, and I just want to get in bed get under the covers and pull them up over my head, that I’ll keep close to me but in the end I think it all balances out.

I come back to this again and again. It is the hardest job I have – being a father. I need a beginners mind for just about everything I do as one and I have to learn quickly in order to keep up with my son. It is frustrating. It is heartbreaking, sometimes boring (helping with homework), fun, terrifying, daunting, maddening, makes me full of rage some days and pride on others. It is also the most fulfilling and wonderful job I have and I would not trade it in for anything.

Trust the Process and other Such Jabber-Wockey

We’re picking up M-ito on Saturday, two days and counting.

The apartment has been strangely silent. Mom-ita and I have adjusted. We’ve had some wonderful time to ourselves while missing our son, sometimes alternately and sometimes at the same time. How strange that is – parental guilt laced with joy.

We’ve seen pictures of him since day five almost every day. He is smiling but then they wouldn’t take pictures of a disheartened and unhappy child, would they? Still, we have been trusting the process developed by the camp over its 125 years of service in helping children to be away from home for the first time.

We received a letter from M-ito on day nine of his adventure. It is the only letter we’ve received so far. He wrote the letter on his first full day of camp and let’s just say… he was not happy. According to his letter they were (you guess and I’ll tell you the answers tomorrow) on his first full day at camp:
1. made to play dodgeball for 2 hours
2. force-marched for five miles up mount Baldy and back without food or water
3. tortured with roasting marshmallows without chocolate or graham crackers for an hour before bed
4. made to sing songs about God
5. made to eat cocoa pebbles until their stomachs were ready to burst
6. made to watch Yellow Submarine three times in a row because of heavy rain in “the big house” which is like a prison

Seriously. If you read his letter it would break your heart. He actually said, “I miss you very much.”

Ouch.

I’m glad we didn’t get this until day nine. At the same time if we had known how upset he was on day one would we have gone up and taken him home? Did he expect that? Have we failed as parents and will he feel like we abandoned him? Do I foresee skyrocketing therapy costs in our future? Did we do the right things by trusting the process and the pictures and the words of his counselor? These are the things that keep Mom-ita and me up at night staring at the ceiling.

It’s almost 9pm Thursday evening.

Less than 2-days to go.

A Perfect Day

They don’t happen too often but when they do they tend to be simple, just like this past Saturday.

  • Wake up at 6am to do yoga practice and prepare for morning class. Asana and seated meditation then shower and get dressed for class.
  • 7:15am take Spike-ito out for a walk.
  • 8:30am leave to teach morning yoga class. M-ito and Mom-ita are still asleep.
  • 9:15-10:45am teach class – students are back from vacations, class is packed, and life is good.
  • 11:30am back home for brunch with Mom-ita and M-ito.
  • 12:30pm take Spike-ito out for walk with M-ito. We talk about Warhammer games (our newest father son obsession), school, life in general.
  • 1:30-4:30pm lazing around on couch with M-ito, him watching Saturday afternoon TV shows, me napping on and off, Mom-ita reading, napping, cleaning.
  • 5pm head out with M-ito to the dog run for the first time. Mom-ita is napping.
  • 6-6:45pm Watch Spike-ito make friends and play at the dog run. M-ito at first watches from the bench trying to read his book. Then after five minutes of watching Spike-ito run, wrestle, crash into cement pylons, run, run, and run some more with his new pals, M-ito gets up and joins in. He chases Spike-ito then meets the other dogs, moves our stuff next to the other owners on the other bench, and starts up conversations with the other owners like, “What kind of dog is yours? How old is he? Where did you get him?” It’s hard not to smile while you’re at the dog run. It’s a pretty happy place and the happiness is infectious. I marvel at my son and how he, as an eight year old boy holds himself and interacts with adults. As the dogs start to get tired we collar Spike-ito up and walk him home. All the way home we talk about the experience, what we learned about Spike-ito (he’s a high energy dog, loves to run, is faster than the average dog, gets knocked over a lot but like the energizer bunny keeps on going, loves, loves, loves to play, and how much he needs a bath after all the slobbering from all the other dogs and the dirt and dust) and what we’d like to do when we get home.
  • 8pm our pizza from Louie’s arrives. M-ito loves their pizza.
  • 8:15-10pm we watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid, all three of us and sometimes four of us (Spike-ito included) seated across the couch, laughing. Ice cream included as dessert.
  • 10pm Mom-ita takes Spike-ito out for his final walk and M-ito and I head to bed. We read for a few minutes then its lights out.
  • 11pm Mom-ita joins us.

What Do 2nd and 3rd Grade Boys Talk About?

It starts as soon as we get in the car. I’ve only driven the boys (M-ito and his friend Austino) to school (or picked them up from school) a handful of times but it happens each time. They get in the car and start talking about poop, pee, and destruction. Here’s an example.

“Poop, poop, poop, poop,” Austino says as soon as they close the car door and buckle themselves in.

“Poop and pee, poop and pee, poop and pee,” M-ito adds in. They are both hysterical with laughter. I smile back at them through the rear view mirror.

“All right you two,” I say, “that’s enough with the poop and pee.” I know once they are in school none of this will be allowed. I figure it’s better to get it all out now so when they don’t stop right away I let it go on for  a few minutes before I veer them towards another subject.

On Friday they both were singing the Barney song but it went a little like this: “I hate you, you hate me, we’re an unhappy family, I’m gonna take a saw and cut off your head, then Barney will soon be dead.” Writing it down it doesn’t sound too good. I know, I know. But in the car, riding home after a full day of school, being good, following the rules, not using any toilet language, being gentlemen, a little letting loose can’t be bad. Can it? Variations of Barney being taken out went on for a good ten minutes with the two boys laughing and giggling at each other’s humor. Eventually I told them that enough was enough and asked them to change the subject – but they only sang louder. I should have figured that wouldn’t stop them but I’m slow at these things. Regardless, I liked to hear them laugh and didn’t want to crush their creative work directly, just channel it somewhere else. So I started word games with them. How many words can you name that rhyme with red? Then I spy with my little eye. It worked for a while, but poor Barney the purple dinosaur eventually got knocked off a few more times before we got home.

This trend towards violence and not understanding what it means disturbs me. It’s not real to the kids. But, do I want it to be real for them? Do I want them to have seen people get killed for real? Dead bodies, for real?  I’ve seen enough violence and the results of violence in my life and I’d rather not have them see any of it even when they’re older. On the other hand, they don’t take it seriously. It’s like a movie or a video game to them. And so it’s funny.

I remember a number of my friends in High School used to enjoy seeing the George Romero films like Dawn of the Dead. They laughed at the gore and violence because it was so over-the-top to them. I couldn’t watch the films. They terrified me and it all looked way too real. I couldn’t laugh at the horror of what I saw on the screen. I was not made to see horror films.

My son does not see violent films – he barely gets to see PG rated animated films and we hand-pick his films very carefully. He still hasn’t watched the third Star Wars film Revenge of the Sith because I think it’s just too violent. M-ito couldn’t sit through Beverly Hills Chihuahua last year because it was “too scary.” He get’s scared easily and we don’t want him to have nightmares. Yet when he plays Wi Lego Star Wars what is the purpose of most of the action? Well… it’s to kill all the other characters. You get points for taking their hearts. “Take out your light saber and kill them,” is commonly heard during play. It makes me cringe. What do parents do about this desensitization?

M-ito told me a story on Friday about his school. Three 8th graders had to do some public speaking at assembly last week – it’s an assignment each of them has to complete during the school year – and one of them tried to be funny in his speech. M-ito explained it to me like this.

“One boy told us he was describing his trip to Japan and said, ‘I was looking out the window of the airplane and saw three torpedoes fly out at a building and blow it up. Then I saw people jumping off the building, wait, no I was only kidding!’ That’s what he said, ‘I was only kidding!” M-ito laughed – I sensed feeling sophisticated because he got the humor. He thought it was funny – as funny as talking about poop, farts, or pee.

The first time I heard him tell this story, we were in the car on the way home from school and Austino was in the car too. They both thought it funny. I smiled but felt a little sick to my stomach – a little disturbed. I was on the 16th floor of Tower II the day the Trade Center’s came down and the story just rang differently for me. I didn’t say anything to him about it. I smiled and listened to them laugh. The second time he told the story it was to Mom-ita a few days later and I was listening while sitting next to him at dinner. I looked at Mom-ita after he’d finished and neither one of us talked for a moment. M-ito was giggling again.

We both finally looked at him and said, “You know it could be that people will think about the World Trade Center when someone tells that kind of story. They might not think it funny. People really got killed there – a lot of people.” But M-ito was working on only 8 hours of sleep and as soon as I got serious he tuned me out. Of course I said two or three sentences more and had to have Mom-ita tell me to stop, “He’s not listening to you anymore,” before I finally did find silence.

I liked it when M-ito thought Oswald was the best TV show. There was no violence. There was Big Banana day. There was a picnic in the park. There was lunch at the local diner meeting friends. Now my son is growing up and the volume is being turned up too.

When it comes down to it, if I have a choice between laughing at violence or poop and pee, I’ll take the poop and pee any day.

Birthday Boogers

I woke up this morning with my son beneath the covers next to me. His eyes were open as if he’d been waiting for me to wake up. I had  a yoga class to teach so I closed my eyes, hoping in my fantaasy world that he would go back to sleep. He leaned over, smiling, and said, “Happy birthday,” then closed his eyes and pretended to go back to sleep.

I rolled out of bed, my body achy from a cold I’ve been fighting off – that and too many late nights/early mornings this week tteaching and travelling. M-ito came out a few minutes later. “Dad-dito,” he said. “I want you to know I didn’t put any boogers on you last night. It’s your birthday so I put them on me instead.”

“Thank you,” I said. “That’s a very thoughtful gift.”

“Today,” he continued, “we’re going to do all things you like to do. So if you don’t want to watch Pokemon tonight (a bit of an evening ritual we’ve been following these days) you don’t have to. We’ll watch what you want to watch.”

“Okay,” I said.

“But… if you want to watch Pokemon, the movie we still haven’t seen, you know, that’s all right with me too.”

“Good.”

Then he hugged me as we looked at each other in the bathroom mirror. It wasn’t so long ago he couldn’t see himself without standing on the step-stool. Now he almost fits under my arm – almost. He’s a beautiful combination of Mom-ita and me.

Then we went out to the living, me to my yoga practice and preparation for the class I had to teach in an hour, and him to watch some TV, Phineas and Ferb to be exact. Usually I don’t let him watch TV while I do my practice. But it’s my birthday, so I figured if he could put the boogers on his own arm instead of mine, I could let him watch a show while I did my practice.

Favorite TV Shows at 7 and 1/4

July’s Favorite TV Shows:

  • Phineas and Ferb (Aglet song and the one hit wonder Gitchie Gitchie Goo song are constantly in his head, and mine at this point – by the way I love this show too. It makes me laugh out loud many times. Perhaps it is my sense of humor or perhaps the show is really just funny. The kids are nice to each other and even the older sister Candice – whom M-ito has to look away from every time her and Jeremy are getting all lovey-dovey, has some really warm and beautiful moments.)
  • Star Wars the Clone Wars (the first four episodes just came out on DVD and we’ve already watched them two times this week – I also enjoy this show. The animation is very good and original and the stories exciting and well written – though some are way too old for my son and require explaining. More a 10 and up show than a 7 and up. Don’t let the cartoon imagery fool you – it is violent.)
  • Chowder (this show is new and I’m not sure what it is as I haven’t seen it yet. M-ito described it to me as a story about a short fat kid who wears purple all the time – and said, quote – it’s really cool)
  • Pokemon (we both love to watch this also – M-ito because he knows all the Pokemon and wishes he could have one in this world so he could train it and it could be his best friend – and me because it’s interesting, contains strategy tactical development skills – yes I rerally wrote that – perhaps it’s better to jsut say it promotes game playing skills and neat problem solving skills – and pretty good values shown about friendship and teamwork. I have found the card game to be great – really works M-ito’s math skills and the imagery is terrific. The animation is standard on the show and stylized – reminding me of Speed Racer days, but I think the story lines are good considering every show is about a fight between Pokemon. It’s amazing what the writer’s have done with that.)

Youtube Trouble – Parental Controls to the Rescue

It’s time for me to put parental controls on the computer. M-ito has figured out how to use Google.

Yesterday he called me over to see something he’d found on the computer. It was a Star Wars Lego video on Youtube. I watched two of them before I shook myself and realized my son had found Youtube. How did he find Youtube?

“How’d you find Youtube?” I asked, speaking almost as quickly as I thought.

“Right here,” he said and showed me how he’d typed in Legos and gotten a list of sites, including Youtube videos of legos Star Wars characters in stop-motion battle with each other. It was just dawning on me what this meant – what my son had found and what he could now be exposed to when he showed me another video.

“Look at this one, Dad-dito!” he said, pointing to the screen.

I saw what looked like a scene from episode 1 on the planet Naboo – marshy with fog and a gungan riding a walking two-legged creature. I looked up at the title of the film – Star Wars Spoof Battle with Benny Hill. “Whow,” I said, taking the mouse, ” time to switch channels.”

“Why?” M-ito asked.

“This one’s adult content – you know – not for kids.”

M-ito just looked at me.

“From now on you have to have Mom-ita or me nearby when you go searching on Google or watching Youtube. Got it?”

He nodded.

Later I watched the film, of course, because I’m an adult and I’m curious. It was the battle scene from the movie sped up to manic speed while the famous Benny Hill Show music played in the background. I smiled through to the end.