Blood Brothers

K-Man’s first best friend is a boy named (let’s call him) Chuck. Chuck and K-Man were inseparable and each constantly asked if the other were available for play dates. As they got older, however, their relationship took some uncomfortable twists and turns. Despite the fact that they were best friends, they both went through the usual hitting stage at the same time. And, since they spent so much time with each other…it meant that they were constantly hitting each other. Not a good way to build a friendship. (At least not until elementary school, when hitting means you like someone.) As a result, the play dates became less frequent.

Because K-Man and Chuck were thrust together as the result of a Southern Marin Mom’s Club Mother’s Group, however, they still saw each other a few times a month. So, while their relationship may have morphed from the best of friends to just friends, there were still hints of the special bond that they once shared. And this afternoon, that bond was never stronger.

K-Man and Chuck were playing together at a park in Corte Madera during the annual “Mother’s Group Family Picnic,” when a slightly-older, slightly-bigger boy approached Chuck. This kid was clearly a bully and somewhat used to pushing other kids around. Chuck, despite the fact that he’s not slightly-bigger, is not one for backing down from any kind of challenge and possesses a vocabulary that most college literary professors would die for. While the details of what happened next remain fuzzy (the bully reports that Chuck threatened to “kick his butt), the result was that the bully punched Chuck in the mouth and gave him a bloody lip.

Like any best friend, though, K-Man did not stand idly by. I watched as he grabbed the bully by the shirt and told him “don’t do that.” Of course, K-Man then also ended up with a bloody lip. Bully 2 Friends 0. After some tears, ice and hugs from mom, both boys were soon climbing trees again, thick as thieves.

The bully’s mom approached us and apologized, “I don’t know what go into him,” she said. “He’s never done this before.” Riiiiiiggggghhhhtttt. We’re perfectly sure that from out of nowhere, your bigger, older son, randomly, just today for the first time, took not one, but two swings at younger, smaller kids in the park. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to call “bullsh-t.” Later in the afternoon, the very same kid found his way into the jumpy house that WE had all paid for. Surprisingly, there he was pushing all the smaller kids – causing a couple to cry. And, there was mom, “I’m so surprised. I don’t know what’s gotten into him today.” Yeah, I called bullsh-t before. Now, I’m just going to have to tell you to shut the eff up. Your kid is a nightmare. Move along.

The party wore on. K-Man and Chuck kept playing. Kept laughing. They may not be the best of buds anymore, but they remember where they came from. I dig that.

Skool Daze

Kids are going back to school. Parents are celebrating everywhere.

K-Man is only four (almost), but the school issue has been echoing throughout the halls of our house since before he was born. If you don’t get your kid on a pre-school waiting list at the time of conception, there’s a chance he/she won’t get into the school of your choice. (There are some who argue that you should call to book your spot in mid-coitus. Just to be safe.) We started late and didn’t initially look into schools until after K-Man was born. What were we thinking? Now, finally, he’s gotten into the school we want (read: the most convenient one for our commute).

The whole school/education issue is a daunting one for parents. (Of course, it’s made more daunting by the fact that California has agreed to cease all education funding and, instead, seems to be heading toward relying on kids to simply educate themselves.) We want our kids to have the best education to give them the best opportunities to…well, I was going to write, “get jobs,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case, either. Let’s go with that anyway. Good education leads to good opportunities.

As parents, we’re sometimes petrified of making the wrong decisions for our kids. Even now, as we finally got K into this new school, we’re worried that he’s going to miss his best little buddy (we’ll call him H). K & H are peas in a pod. (Though, I’ve often wondered – is there any real research to show that peas in a bod actually like each other? I mean, just because they’re right next to each other doesn’t mean they necessarily get along. Maybe that one pea is just hoping the other gets eaten first. But I digress.) Suffice to say, we worry that we’re going to mess up the kid by removing him from his best buddy.

And that’s just for a four year old.

What about when K gets older? Should we move from our current location to be in a better school system? Should we be thinking about private school? Should we leave the state? The questions come faster than steroid-induced (allegedly) fastballs from Roger Clemens. As we were discussing this yesterday, a friend told me we have two main responsibilities as parents: Shelter and education. The rest? Eh.

Right now, though, for most parents – education isn’t so much about the opportunities for their kids. It’s about getting their kids out of the house again and the opportunities it provides for the parents. I’m guessing massage appointments in Marin might be hard to come by these days.

Into the Deep End

I’m always surprised by those moments when I really feel like a dad. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am. There are those times when I find myself explaining some lesson to K-Man and wondering where the hell I come up with this stuff? Then there are those times when he does something that surprises me and the pride is overwhelming.

Today was one such day for the latter.

We’ve been working with K-Man on his swimming throughout the (so-called) summer. He tried lessons, but they didn’t really take. The kid loves being in the water (any water), but he’s just not all that interested in learning how to swim. That said, he’s perfectly willing to try to teach himself. And, he’s the king of watching other people, kids, whomever do anything and then trying himself.

As a bit of back story, the kid went through a pretty serious SCUBA diver infatuation phase. He watched all things SCUBA. He loved to check out fish. So, it’s no surprise that he loves his mask and snorkel. And, I suppose it’s no surprise that despite the fact that he can’t actually swim, he’s perfectly capable of breathing underwater through a snorkel. I guess I should have known that when he said to me this morning, “Daddy, I want to swim like a SCUBA diver” that something was going on.

Today, the kid got in the pool, asked for his mask and snorkel and swam across the pool just like a SCUBA diver with a slow, easy, modified breast stroke. One end to the other. Back and forth. Rinse and repeat. He swam more lengths today than I have in my entire life. It was amazing. Yes, it was amazing because today marks the day that my kid seems to have taught himself to swim. But it was also a lesson in perseverance and desire. He wanted it. He knew it. He even visualized it. He did it.

As we were leaving the club, I told him I was proud of him. Without thinking, I said, “That was so effing awesome, K-Man” (though I used the real word – not effing). He replied. “I know.” And after a few seconds, he said, “Effing awesome.” Didn’t think I could be more proud, but I was.

Explaining Sports to the Kid

When I was a kid growing up in LA, I didn’t know anything about death & taxes being the only givens. For me, the givens were Russell-to-Lopes-to-Garvey for a double play, or Kareem’s sky hook. (I was a kid – I didn’t control where I lived! Forgive me!) Watching my favorite teams was fun. I knew who would be wearing Dodger Blue every year. I could count on the Purple & Gold. Watching sports was fun. I could look up to the players. Times have certainly changed.

As I last week’s headlines about Michael Vick being signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, and, as I read another story about steroid abuse, I’m left with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I feel like Michael Vick has done his time. I sometimes feel like I don’t care about steroids in sports. If athletes want to destroy their bodies…so be it.

But on the other hand…what do I tell the kid?

K-Man is not quite four. The only juice he cares about is the kind that comes in a sippy-cup…not a syringe. As a result, I don’t have to explain this to him. And, I’m thankful, as I don’t know that I’d be able to do it. “These guys cheated themselves and the game by not playing fair. In order to do so, they took illegal drugs…” and I can imagine K-Man’s eyes glazing over at this point. At some point, however, he will be old enough to understand and I will have to explain why athletes do what they do.

Times have changed from “Say it ain’t so!” – a time when we were surprised that our athletic heroes might be doing something unsavory. Now, with our 24/7 news cycle and every move being caught with an iPhone camera, it’s more like, “Yes, we know!” We’re not even shocked anymore by the fact that athletes are using PEDs. We’re not even shocked when another charge is filed, or another soft sentence handed down.

Athletes were my heroes. I looked up to them. I wanted to be them. I grew up on a street with kids in every house and all of the boys wanted to be professional athletes when we got older. All of us. Now? I don’t know what to think. When K-Man entered the world, I had those visions of enjoying sports together. I still want that. It’s just going to be different, that’s all.

Meeting People in the Strangest of Places

As great as it is to have a full potty-trained kid, there are times when I yearn for the ol’ diaper. Like last Thursday night:

“Daddy, I really need to go poop.”

“Great, K-Man. Let’s go to the potty and…oh, wait, we’re in a park with no potty. Do you think you can hold it K? Or is it an emergency?”

“It’s an emergency.”

At this point, for some reason, I scooped him up and we ran to the car where I found some wipes. I think I was channeling my inner-McGyver. Not sure what I was gonna do, but I had plane to build a bathroom out of sticks, leaves and chewing gum. I actually figured that I would have K-Man crouch in some distant bushes in the park. We ran back to the park and, damn…the bush, which I was planning on using was currently being occupied by a dog. Seriously. It’s like finally getting to the port-a-potty only to find the door is locked.

Just as K-Man was about to lose it all – I noticed a dad with a boy about K-Man’s age heading into his home, which backed up to the park. “Excuse me, but we’re having a potty emergency,” I pleaded without using the actual words. “Sure, he said, bathroom is right here.” Rescued.

K-Man then proceeded to use the beautiful, new bathroom for all it was worth. A full twenty minutes later, we emerged from this dad’s bathroom. I cannot even imagine what he must have been thinking about the total strangers who were in his bathroom. Turned out, however, that his son and K-Man are pretty much exactly the same age. And, over the course of the next two hours – the boys romped, roamed and wore each other out. New friends. A bond forged by toilet paper…

Degrees of Stupidity

This story has been making the rounds the last couple of days. In short, a woman who is having trouble finding a job is suing her college to get her tuition back. She feels the school apparently didn’t prepare her to qualify for a gig. So sue. It’s the American way, after all.

Where do we draw the line?

Does this mean that the socially-challenged dude with Porsche can sue the dealership if he doesn’t get lai…I mean, have success with women?

Does this mean that the college basketball player can sue his coach if he doesn’t go pro?

And Does this mean that if K-Man doesn’t do well in math class when he’s in the ninth grade that he can sue me for not helping him with Algebra (a likely reality)? Millions of dollars – hundreds of millions? – are spent every year on therapy. In that therapy, we often discover how badly our parents messed us up! K-Man may have the same experience. So, instead of spending that money on a therapist, will kids spend it on lawyers? Nah. Wouldn’t want to mess with the inheritance.

For its part, Monroe College in the Bronx feels that its litigious former student has no case. I’m not so sure. As the story said – if she’d idiotic enough to do this, maybe the school really did fail her. Never mind my thoughts about the lawyer on this one.

A Fevered Pitch

vicks-forehead-concept3I’ve written thousands of blog posts through the years and during that time, I’ve perhaps endorsed two or three products. K-Man has been sick the last few days, sporting the usual symptoms – high fever and petulant attitude. We knew he was burning up, but we couldn’t find the thermometer anywhere.

My hunch is that after the last fever he had, which was over a year ago, he hid the thermometer, or even threw it away. He’s a smart kid and after having his temperature taken – I hesitate to even type it – rectally, he was likely done. I’m sure at that moment he made himself a promise that he’d never have any objects placed into that body part again. Without his permission anyway.

So, with the thermometer missing, I went to the store to buy a new one. I was amazed at the number of choices I had. Back in the day when I was sick – there’s was basically one choice. Oh, sure, Mom offered the under the tongue method, but when you’re all stuffed up, it’s impossible to breathe through your noise. Roll over. Grin. And bear it. More often than not, Mom was like a phlebotomist who can’t find a vein. Poke. Poke. Poke. Pain. Pain. Pain.

I shook off the horrid memories, and went back to surveying the temperature-taking landscape. That’s when I found it. The thermometer (from Vick’s) that I’d heard about on the radio. Just swipe it over the forehead. No internal bleeding. No discomfort of any kind. (Even those ear probe things are a bit invasive.) It’s expensive, sure. But, I’m willing to take $50 out of K-Man’s college fund to avoid poking the kid.

K-Man’s temperature is back to normal now, but I still take his temperature five or six times a day. Because I can.

Number One

Exactly four years ago – give or take a week – I started my first blog called, Life & Times of a New Dad. That blog led to a book GO-TO-GUIDES for GUYS: ABCs for Expectant Dads (Dalmatian Press, 2007), which leads us to this new blog, Skadaddling. Not sure exactly what to write to start this all off, I figured I’d go back to my roots. Four years ago, I wrote:

As of today, my wife is 35 weeks pregnant. Five more weeks and I’ll be a dad (though, it should be noted that as my wife reminds me because she has read every conceivable online article about pregnancy and childbirth, the kid could enter this world in as little as two weeks or as many as seven).

It’s enough to make you continue wondering…how the hell did we get here? That answer is found in a simple mathematical riddle: When does 180 seconds = 40 years (give or take)?

The answer: When a quickie gets your wife knocked up. Yep, our little guy is the result of 180 seconds (of course, counting foreplay, which went something like, “you ready?”) of the most beautiful connection two people can possibly share at 2:00 in the morning with a 5:00 AM wake-up call looming in the way-too-near future. 180 seconds and 35 weeks later and we find ourselves waiting for September 9th.

There’s a great deal of pressure that comes from writing the first post of a new blog. It’s a first impression. And if we’ve learned anything in this digital era of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it media, you may never even get a chance to make a first impression. (Of course, the opposite is also true. With the 24/7 news cycle, some stories just never go away. Anyone else hear that Michael Jackson passed away?) I truly hope that you’ll give this a chance. You’ll read it. And read it some more.

Mostly, I’ll be writing about my experiences as a dad. And, most of those experiences will be in Marin. I’ll write about the kid (K-Man), the wife (G) and the dog (H). I’ll also write about sports, and if my book is any indication, I might mention golf, porn and/or work from time to time. I hope that’s enough to keep you entertained (or even annoyed). More to come. Enjoy.