Category Archives: Parenting

‘Warde,’ old dad

“My dad is warde.”

That sentence was the first one my daughter, Anna, wrote in first grade. She started first grade last Wednesday and, a few days ago, she came home, we began to go through her folder, and she pulled out a piece of paper with several written sentences.

For those unfamiliar with early first grade handwriting/spelling, “warde” means weird. The first sentence Anna wrote as a first-grade meant to read, “My dad is weird.”

Anna was pumped for her first day of first grade. Sorry for the shadow.

Anna was pumped for her first day of first grade. Sorry for the shadow.

Well, Anna is right. I’m a little off. I must be having worked nights and weekends the past 18 years. Then again, I’m fairly certain I’ve never come across anyone normal. So, in my opinion, we’re all a little “warde.”

The sentence caught me off-guard, though. For years, I was Anna’s self-described “best friend.” She loved my music, pretended to pay attention to Pitt basketball and the Pirates and put me on a pedestal.

Things shifted during kindergarten and, by Father’s Day, I knew exactly where I ranked. The homemade card read,” Dad, you’re still my friend but you’re not my best friend.” On her list of best friends, I now rank eighth.

In reality, I probably rank a little lower and, while it’s a bruise to the ego, it’s also OK. Anna looks at me sometimes like I have an ear growing from my forehead, especially when I’m jamming in the car. She still goes to hold my hand but, once she realizes what she’s doing, Anna quickly pulls back. Rock music is no longer appreciated. It’s all Taylor Swift and Katy Perry all the time.

When I drop her off at Hutchinson Elementary, I tell her, “Love you, kiddo.” She replies, “OK, dad.” She shuts the door and heads up the stairs to school. I watch her walk up before I pull away. For a few seconds, I think about old times and where life may take her. To me, she’s still my little buddy. I’ll probably always think of her that way.

Growing old gracefully? Not exactly

That's me on the left. The hairline receded a little, and I'm pretty sure my nose actually got bigger over the years.

That’s me on the left. The hairline receded a little, and I’m pretty sure my nose actually got bigger over the years.

Guys, we can exercise, party, kid around and act young, but there’s no hiding an ugly truth.

We’re getting old.

Hairs are growing where they never did. Hangovers last so long, swearing off drinking entirely sounds reasonable. Joints creak. Muscles ache. Getting up at night to go to the bathroom isn’t an inconvenience; it’s simply part of the routine.

A couple doses of growing old truth serum were served to me recently. The first came last Tuesday evening when this 40-year-old challenged himself to hang with high school seniors trying out for the Washington-Greene High School Senior All-Star Basketball Game, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Washington, for an upcoming feature in the Observer-Reporter.

I consider myself to be in good shape. I run regularly for long distances and at faster-than-average speeds. I’ve placed in my age group at races. I lift weights five days a week. I play racquetball and walk our dog, Ringo, … ok, enough already, right?

The fact is, no matter how much I train, I can’t hang with the speed and energy of 17- and 18-year-old kids. That became evident during the layup line at tryouts. Granted, the line lasted for 12 minutes – 12 minutes! – but it wasn’t long before the breathing turned heavy. As for getting off the ground, a four-inch vertical leap was on full display – over and over. When it came time to get on the court, I was tired. The kids were just getting started.

The second dose hit the next morning in spin class. Normally, spin class is reserved for Friday morning but Erin wasn’t working and she wanted to do spin class. I originally balked. but relented. After all, spin class is an outstanding way to train for distance running. It strengthens legs, bolsters endurance and commands complete attention.

I’d like to blame her for what happened next, but, let’s face it, I’m getting old.

About 30 minutes into class, I rose from the seat for a climb when I felt something unusual in my right foot. On rare occasions, the pedal causes a slight discomfort – unlike many enthusiasts, I spin in sneakers. This, however, was different. It was actual pain.

So guess what?

Yep, I kept riding.

Who says people get smarter with age?

I finished class, but I knew something was off. As the day continued, I became convinced something was broken. Walking was excruciating. Shoes provided instant discomfort. Of course, I didn’t go to the doctor. Instead, I went to work.

After dropping Anna off at school Thursday morning, a visit to MedExpress was in order and, after a few x-rays, a diagnosis of a foot sprain was given.

It’s Monday afternoon and that right foot still hurts. A few people told me foot sprains are worse than breaks. I wouldn’t know, but I know foot sprains suck. I’m basically confined to the house with the exception of going to work. It’s making me a bit stir crazy, even if I downloaded Trivia Crack.

Getting old kinda sucks, too. I can’t do many of the things I used to accomplish, and I’m beginning to realize achieving certain goals I’ve set for myself may be better suited for less mature audiences.

Now, it’s time to try and get off the couch.

40 and loving 2-hour delays

Remember rolling over, tired and groggy, trying to wrap your head around another long, boring tedious day of junior high or high school only to find out there’s a 2-hour delay?

Life doesn’t get much better.

Sleep in. Take time getting ready. And still get credit for a full day in class.

Nope, can’t beat it.

That special feeling was lost on me until this year, when my daughter Anna enrolled in kindergarten. The 2-hour delays are back, and she’s had three of them since the middle of last week.

Trust me when I say 2-hour delays only get better with age.

Anna loves her sledding. Lucky for her, so does dad.

Anna loves her sledding. Lucky for her, so does dad.

There’s no pleading with Anna to get out of bed by 8:05 a.m. No rushing her through breakfast, getting her backpack ready, making sure she’s taken her vitamins, brushed her teeth and either has her lunch packed or made the decision to buy from the cafeteria all before rushing out the door by 8:50 in a mad-dash attempt to get her to school by 9.

Nope. During a 2-hour delay, the coffee tastes sweeter, the rush to eat breakfast is replaced by a calm, casual pace and there’s no pleading to stop telling dad stories to focus on getting dressed.

It permits time to take the dog for a walk, permitted the temperature isn’t hovering around zero. We can sled in our backyard, which serves as the neighborhood slope given the steepness of our hill (trust me, it makes mowing brutal),

Unlike many parents, I don’t work mornings. So, the 2-hour delay doesn’t inconvenience me or my employment.

In fact, when the weather’s nasty on my drive home from work at night, I’m rooting for a 2-hour delay.

We had a great day; It was a super way to spend some time together

Anna and I looked forward to Dec. 10 for weeks. That night, we headed to the Benedum Center in the Cultural District of Pittsburgh for one of the premier events on the kids’ calendar – a Fresh Beat Band concert.

For those not in the know, the Fresh Beat Band are one of those made-for-television kids groups. It consists of four members – Twist (rapper/DJ), Shout (vocals/keyboards), Kiki (vocals/guitar/violin) and Marina (vocals/drums) – and airs regularly on Nick Jr. The tour, hailed as Fresh Beat Band Greatest Hits Live, might be a farewell of sorts. While a Fresh Beat Band-based cartoon is in the works, original episodes of the show stopped production in 2013. Who knows if the group plans to tour again. Here’s hoping they do.

It’s positive. It’s fun. And, most importantly, it helps draw children to music.

That’s extremely important in my world.

Anna perfectly executing the Fresh Beat Band's "Freeze Dance" in an aisle at the Bendum Center,

Anna perfectly executing the Fresh Beat Band’s “Freeze Dance” in an aisle at the Bendum Center,

Tickets for daughter and dad were purchased after Anna went an entire week earning green flags for behavior in her kindergarten class, which is no easy feat given her propensities for talking and talking with volume. Plans, which included her first trip to University of Pittsburgh landmark The O, were made.

It marked our second kids concert at the Benedum, where we’d once seen the Imagination Movers. It also marked our second Fresh Beat Band concert of 2014. We’d caught their act at IUP back in January.

So, after The O, we made our way downtown, parked in a garage and hustled across the street to the show., A light-up tambourine was purchased. So was a bag of cinnamon-coated walnuts. Added a bottle of water, and we were ready to rock.

Anna's favorite Fresh Beat Band member is Kiki. Mine is the Real MC, Twist.

Anna’s favorite Fresh Beat Band member is Kiki. Mine is the Real MC, Twist.

Now, unlike some dads, I have zero problem attending these shows. I’ll get up and dance, sing along and act a fool – all in the name of fun and celebrating music that makes Anna happy. And we definitely had fun watching the Fresh Beat Band.

For me, the event also held some nostalgia. Anna is nearing the age of 6, and her tastes are rapidly changing. On the rare occasion she sits and watches television, she prefers tweener shows like “Dog With a Blog” and “Austin and Ally” to cartoons like “Word World” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” her and I watched during daylight hours before I’d head to work. Anna’s days of kids concerts are nearing an end. She’s asking to see acts like Katy Perry and KISS. My little best buddy is evolving. It is what it is. I’ll always hold these early years close to my heart.

You'd be happy to after filling your belly with O fries before a concert,

You’d be happy to after filling your belly with O fries before a concert,

On Sunday, Anna drew a fever and she’s home from school today. I’m off work after a six-day stretch, that included a fatal apartment fire Friday night less than two hours from deadline. It’s like old times, except my bouncy, bubbly buddy isn’t chattering nonstop.

We’re even watching some of our old favorites like “Olivia” and “Wonder Pets.” It’s like a portal to the not-so-distant past, when we jammed out to groups like the Fresh Beat Band.

In some weird ways, it’s been wonderful. Just hope she’s back to full health in time for Christmas Eve, and, when she is, I’ll be right here, watching tweener shows, reading an endless string of books together and going to see Katy Perry.

Father of the year

Dads, we get a bad rap. We rarely get enough credit. And, you know what, a lot of us totally rock.

We do the things no one else at the house will – plumbing, mowing, raking, gutter cleaning, taking out garbage and grilling. We don’t ask for credit. We don’t need praise or crave attention. Maybe it’s because we’re used to not receiving any.

That’s about to change.

It’s time to give dads credit. We deserve it.

Heck, we’ve earned it.

Earlier today, I dropped my only child off at Amos K. Hutchinson Elementary School, part of the Greensburg Salem School District, in Southwest Greensburg. The day was landmark for several reasons:

  1. Anna was embarking on her first day of kindergarten.

photo (7)Anna friends

  1. Dad works an evening job.

For 5 1/2 years, my daytime was filled with Anna. All Anna. All the time. We took walks. We read books. We listened to music and watched cartoons. We sang and danced to Katy Perry. We played soccer, wiffleball, rode bikes, went to the mall. Had lunch dates. She came to the gym with me. She was my constant companion, and one incredible friend.

Suddenly, at 8:53 a.m., my Anna walked herself inside Hutchinson after giving a couple football players from Seton Hill high fives and disappeared into the masses. She was officially a student. My whole world changed at that very moment.

I had something called FREE TIME.

What’s that you ask? Well, for parents, it’s that time when you’re not working and not watching your children. It’s rare, some say. I wouldn’t know. I hardly had any the past five-plus years. Now, I’ll have plenty of it. Golf? Fishing? Not rushing at the gym? Day drinking? These are all possibilities.

And I’ve earned it.

People keep asking me, “How are you going to be when Anna starts school?”

I dreaded the potential answers. The day before she started, I grew sentimental. I knew I’d miss her. I even teared up a time or two thinking about the impending event. I thought about how women would smile and tell me what a wonderful father I was because I took my child to the doctor’s office, the dentist, the grocery store or wherever. It always came across as sexist to me. After all, I don’t work during the day. What else would any respectable father do?

But as I walked with Anna, hand-in-hand, toward Hutchinson today, I didn’t get upset or sentimental or sad.

I was happy. Yes, I’m going to miss her constant chatter, companionship and love, but I’ll figure it out.

Happy for Anna, who was hopping along singing some Mary Poppins tune. Her life is just beginning, and I see someone who is going to seize every opportunity.

See, Anna isn’t your typical kindergartner. Sure, most parents would say that, but how many of them have kids who can more than hold their own in conversation with a roomful of adults or can name extensive songs from the KISS catalog or not only question everything and anything, but take the time to critically think about the answers. She’ll hear something two years prior and bring it up in conversation for the first time, every detail intact.

I’m only skimming the surface. If you’ve met Anna, you know. She’s the true definition of “something else.” She’s going to own that elementary school. No doubt in my mind. I hope you all feel the same way about your child.

And I’d like to think I played a big role in that. I’m certain I did.

Halloween

Dads, I know a lot of you are just like me. You’re willing to be there for soccer practice, school pickup, to put on your daughter’s jewelry when she asks, wear a costume to the school Halloween party or to sing a Guns’n Roses song when the mood hits. You’ve taken your child to the doctor and ice skating lessons and dance recitals.

So that’s why this one’s for you. Keep on rockin’.