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.

Feet and other sundry things…

My son is now wearing an adult sized shoe.

He has now pulverized me in Strategery, epic scale, one on one.

He has just finished 24 of the 26 Warrior novels even though he likes dogs more than cats. He expects to finish the last two before Thanksgiving and I believe he will. “I wish these wouldn’t end,” is his highest complement for the series.

He has watched all three of the Lord of the Rings movies in preparation for The Hobbit coming out in three weeks.

He now watches Big Bang Theory with us (including his grandfather and aunt who are still staying with us as the first floor of their house in Rockaway is being rebuilt from the hurricane damage). What were we thinking when we allowed this (I’m referring to watching the show…)?

He still loves animation. We say Wreck it Ralph last week in the theatre, Flushed Away, and Over the Hedge on DVD – all of which had us both in stitches.

His favorite day at school is still Friday and not because it’s the last day of the school week. He loves it because he has drama class twice, or drama and shop and those classes make him smile.

He still loves art, taking a three-hour class at the Art Student’s League of New York every Saturday morning with his friend. I drive him in and write all morning at Argo Tea around the corner.

 

Sandy

Jackson Heights

Hurricane Sandy hit us this week.

We have my father-in-law and sister-in-law staying with us as of last night.

I don’t know for how long.

Jackson Heights

They live in Rockaway and their house is a wreck. The ground floor was under water and they watched the water climb the stairs during the ‘surge’, pretty much terrified out of their minds. We had them on the phone at that moment. One sister-in-law lost everything. They both lost cars.

Rockaway

Trees are down in our neighborhood but we maintained power. Three cars were flattened by a beautiful old tree just outside our window down the block.

My father out on Long Island has been out of power also but he was inland so seems to be fine though he’s run out of cell phone power. He only turns it on to call me so I have no way of contacting him.

Nature is humbling and an angry mother nature even more so. We are so small compared to it.

Rockaway – A big Piece of the Boardwalk

I’ve spent the morning and afternoon writing and working at my son’s school. Mom-ita and I, along with a host of other parents, have been given a room to work from, showers if we want, coffee, breakfast, and lunch. We don’t have enough gas in the car to go home and come back so we’ve just staid here all day.

Rockaway

Lines for gas are quarter-mile and longer. I’ll have to get up at 4am tomorrow and see if I can beat the lines, otherwise we’re not going anywhere until it gets better.

My office is in Manhattan on 23rd street without power still so it’s closed.

Maybe on Monday.

In the mean time it’s a full house back at our apartment.

Spike-ito is in the House

We got a dog.

We’re in day three of dogdom.

I can’t believe it.

Momita has bad allergies to all creatures with dander so the fact that a dog has been in our home for three days is still amazing to me. Momita has been promising M-ito he could get a dog for a few years – though I’ve had no idea how this would occur. Then by chance a couple of months ago we found a friend with a dog called a Havanese that has hair, not fur and is hypoallergenic. We tried hypoallergenic before with cats when we first got together – Momita loves cats. But even the naked cat (appropriately called the sphinx) caused a bad reaction. I had given up any hope of dogdom (other than being “in the dog house” myself many times) a long time ago so these promises – well, I didn’t take them too seriously because I didn’t think it possible. Momita and her health is much more important than any pet.

Then she chanced upon this dog and two months later, a number of emails to a dog trainer we know, lots of internet time logged studying the breed and looking at recommended breeders, a date to get a dog was arrived upon – September.  Then a connection to another dog trainer who just happened to have an 8 month old Havanese looking for a home occurred and September became July 18th.

We have a dog.

We’re all getting used to each other. One thing I’ll tell you having a dog is a lot of work and it’s very challenging. Even when the dog comes trained and housebroken. As a family we have to work together to integrate Spike-ito (he came named and we decided to stick with the moniker) into our daily life. I have the morning shift before everyone gets up. M-ito and Momita have the afternoon until I come home from work. Then M-ito and I have the evening.

I’ve had dogs before but as a kid. My dad always had them. But that doesn’t mean I know much about how to care for them or what makes them tick.

I read three books, My Smart Puppy, The Perfect Dog, and The Art of Raising a Puppy. My Smart Puppy was the recommended book and the style used to train Spike-ito. But he’s an adolescent and we’re new owners and so we’re off to the races. We have so many things to get used to.

There are crates, poop bags, leashes, collars (three different types), treats, compressed rawhide bones, dog food, food and water bowls, a dog proofing of the apartment (it forced us to clean up better than ever!), a co-op advisement of  “dog-entering-the building” to be sent to the board, pictures to be taken, commands to be learned (was that down, sit, come, or wait?), whining to be heard (only from the dog), and general anxiety about the new responsibility of a 10lb creature to be dealt with (that’s from all parties including the dog).

And how is M-ito about all this? Walking on air at first. But building a long-term relationship with any creature takes time. This will be a big challenge. And I’ll get to watch and help (I hope) along the way. Oh yeah, Momita and I have relationships to build with Spike-ito also – I’d almost forgotten.

8th Birthday: A Save-the-World Party

I find my son’s birthday to be a number of things: sad, anxiety provoking, challenging, tiring, and at some point, hopefully just a little happy. This year we did a home party again. Mom-ita took care of all the arrangements like, food, who was coming, invitations, speaking to M-ito about everything, and helping him to make his birthday list. At 8, my son is still very much into birthdays. I hope he stays that way for a while.

My job as the Dad-dito was, as it has been in the past, to take care of the entertainment (I have been the entertainment the last three years as the yoga teacher for a personalized class two years in a row, and this year as the designer of the save-the-world from Ratzo treasure hunt), pick up the food the morning of the party, order the cake from Cupcake bakery, then pick it up, call my family and make sure they know the date and can come, buy the gifts on M-ito’s list, and help out the day of the party as opposed to getting in the way.

This year my father came with Jocelita, Max’s grandmother (my father’s girlfriend who has taken on the role of a grandmother – it’s a long story but that’s how it works some days) and they arrived with her in tears and him in a grouchy, angry mood. They were the first to arrive. Mom-ita was stressed. I was stressed. Four out of five people in the apartment were stressed. Oh joy. People were coming over, and M-ito was hanging out waiting, playing and already enjoying being the birthday boy even with this madness in the background. I think he didn’t notice what was going on and as his friends arrived (six in all – a small group this year and that was a blessing) he got wrapped up in them. I got wrapped up in occupying my father and listening to Jocelyn and cutting up the fruit salad and regular salad. I put my father to work on drawing characters for the save-the-world game and hoped, hoped, hoped, he would be nice to Max, whom I also asked to draw some characters for the game. My father tends to critique rather than help when it comes to drawing and M-ito is a good artist in his own right but needs to be encouraged not critiqued.

The save-the-world treasure hunt had the evil Ratzo trying to rule the world through the kid’s parents with hand sanitizer – vaporizing spray. I’d hidden  clues around the apartment and throughout the building (laundry, garden, mailbox bulletin board) all written in code with tricks and traps everywhere (every other step of the stairs to the garden was poison to the touch, green paper was poison and some clues were written on green paper, a puzzle of paper pieces was inside a green paper folder). I gave them antidote cards for when they were poisoned so they could keep playing the game, broke then into two teams, girls and boys, code books to be able to crack my code, a storyline to work from and 30 minutes to find Ratzo’s switch that would turn all parents armed with hand sanitizer into child vaporizing machines. I was up until 1:30am the night before setting it all up.

It’s easy to understand the feelings of anxiety, challenge, exhaustion and a little happiness. But why would I be sad? Well, my son is getting older and so am I. It is both wonderful and sad at the same time. I want him to grow up and be a man but I also want him to stay my little boy. Such a simple statement and filled with, for me so much emotion. But that is the nature of birthdays. They make me review life, both my son’s and my own and many times that is painful. So, given that, I try to find some happiness in the story of my son’s birthday, day. The smile on his face as his friends race across the apartment building trying to outrun the clock to find Ratzo’s switch that’s in the refrigerator, of course, dodging parents trying to sanitize their hands (I gave everybody hand sanitizer and they kept asking the kids if they wanted to clean their hands – the kids all ran away screaming NOONONONONONONO!). And watching him open his gifts, blow out the candles on his cake. All the things that make up a birthday celebration of turning a year older and a year wiser. And my son is both. Birthdays need to be celebrated as small rites of passage along the way of life. I need to remember how wonderful it is that he is growing up and learning about this wonderful and challenging world that we live in as human beings.

And also remember, that I  now have a full year to go before I have to do it all again. Whew.

A Day in the Life

6:31 – Wake up having overslept.

6:32 – Roll out mat and do short yoga practice

6:47 – Wake up M-ito and Mom-ita (Mom-ita already awake)

6:50 – Make breakfast for M-ito (humus on toast, hard-boiled egg from yesterday that Mom-ita made, glass of milk)

7:42 – Out the door and drive M-ito to school with Mom-ita

8:35 – Stop at Starbucks near M-itos’ school for tea for the trip back into Manhattan

9:55 – Park car in parking garage – finish tea

10:05 – Sit down at desk to work while Mom-ita goes off to work

4:45 – Leave parking garage with Mom-ita

5:05 – drop off Mom-ita in Woodside at friends – Mom-ita has PTA meeting at M-ito’s school

5:20 – Arrive in Murray Hill to see M-ito’s Tae Kwon Do practice and meet his Grandmother (who picked M-ito up from school to take him to practice)

6:15 – Leave Tae Kwon do and head home

6:40 – Open front door

6:50 – Start cooking dinner

7:10 – M-ito finishes practicing piano

7:30 – M-ito finishes homework

7:50 – Dinner finished

8:15 – Both reading books in bed – M-ito The Magic School Bus “Volcanos”  and me a book on Meditation and Yoga

8:35 – Lights out

9:08 – M-ito finally falls asleep

9:30 – Dinner cleaned up

9:35 – Mom-ita comes home from meeting

11:15 – Finished answering emails

12:14 – Blog entries done – off to bed

Tomorrow morning… start all over again

Buddha Sutra

The Buddha, in talking about our own true nature, gives a talk on the four kinds of horses: the excellent horse, the good horse, the poor horse, and the very bad horse. I’m reading Pema Chodron’s The Wisdon of No Excape and the Path of Loving Kindness (only she could group those two statements together and get away with it) and she talks about this teaching with regard to our approach to meditation. The moral of the story is it doesn’t matter whether you are the excellent horse or the very bad horse because in any case it simply is your nature and you will learn from and through it.

When it comes to meditation I konw I’m the very bad horse. My innate “badness” at the task is probably what makes me teach it well. I have to really work at meditation and I make lots of mistakes from which I learn what to do and what not to do next time. This insight would have been lost on me if I’d simply started meditating and found samadhi. I’d be telling everybody, gee all you have to do is sit down, stop the chattering of your mind and find the peace that resides within. No big deal, see? Watch and I’ll show you. You can cross your legs into lotus, can’t you?

I was wondering how this would translate into fatherhood. First, what kind of father am I and then how does that then relate to my own true father nature? But perhaps here I have to also add in, How does it effect my son and my family? Not as simple as in the meditative analogy – my mind is chattering away like a monkey (monkey mind supreme) but I’ll learn how to manage it in a year or two and then, oh boy, then I’ll have such insight on it. When it comes to being a Dad-dito, any mistakes I make, well… my son feels them in the here and now. I lose my temper over him taking too long to get out of the house on a school day and my son hears me yell. He cries. I cry. We both suffer. Him for getting scared at my yelling and me because of the my own terrible guilt over yelling at him and seeing him get upset. And the lesson? Don’t yell. Get up earlier. Simple really but the drive to get more sleep is deep and insistent. It’s an interesting paralell.

I hear my own father and many other parents of his generation say, “I hope I was a good father to you,” and looking back now I can say he was (and still is), though at different times I’ve gone up and down on the rating scale depending on how our relationship is going- none of which makes me love him any less. I don’t think any of us wants to think of ouselves as the very poor horse when it comes to being a father – even though I know there are times I clearly am – perhaps more than I care to admit. At those times, I take it to heart that though my son has suffered through my inability to get on track, if I at least learn something from the experience and do better next time, he may not have to suffer in quite the same way again. I may be a very bad horse out of the starting gate but I’m an excellent horse on the turns. It’s good to know there are turns up ahead. The straight-aways make me humble. The turns make me smile. Or maybe it’s the other way around.