Tag Archives: life

Who I Am

I recently took a sustained hiatus from writing. Actually, it was a hiatus from my writing on this site. I continued with some fiction writing and reviews for seperate sites but I ignored Founding a Father. For the past two months (which in our online world and blogging might as well have been 16 years) I kept my distance from the site I had once spent so much time. Part of it was a loss of inspiration despite being a husband and father of two girls. That alone should have spurred me on to writing something but the spark I had burnt out. Every time I sat at my dining room table in front of my computer, the words never could make it on to my computer screen. Part of it was a preoccupation with rediscovering how much I love to draw as I have penned a web comic series for my Dads Round Table site and have been busy preparing napkins for my kids’ lunches. Part of it was laziness. As a wonderful blogger recently wrote, “The bad thing about blogging is that it requires consistent time and effort.” – Abby off the Record (if you’re a writer/blogger/or someone who enjoys the written word, you need to go to her site…after you’re finished reading my stuff of course). I got lazy and wasn’t prepared to put in the consistent time and effort it takes to keep the wheels of a blog rolling. And possibly the biggest factor to my recent departure from the world of blogging had been a malaise in my career. My work was stagnant. I was making little to no money and my entire disposition had changed. Instead of wondering if I should write about my 11 year old or my 8 year old or relay a conversation I had with my wife, I was wondering (more like ‘consumed’) with trying to figure out how I was going to pay my mortgage.  I had set my sights on finding a new job.  I put everything on hold until I could figure out what I wanted to be.

Now, I have made no secret about my early aspirations about growing up to be Captain America. I spun a prose of such conviction on my 3rd grade ‘When I Grow Up’ paper, you would have thought I had already ingested the Super Soldier Serum and was just waiting to be fitted for my shield.

Life has a way of crashing us back down on level ground so unforgivingly, even for an 8 year old, it is easy to realize a career in the superhero business just isn’t going to be feasible. So as devoted as I was to the idea of becoming the Star Spangled Avenger, by the following year, I had rerouted my career path. In the years that followed my 3rd grade paper, I had bounced between ambitions of firefighting (until my Mom told me that was much too dangerous of a job), digging up dinosaur bones as a paleontologist (years before Jurassic Park flooded that job market), drawing comic books (the next closest thing to being the characters), teaching, joining NASA, archeology (I was 6 when ‘Raiders’ premiered and Indy had a whip and gun…of course I wanted to be an archeologist), Ghostbuster, Jedi Knight, politician, actor, chef, radio DJ, and stand up comedian

Once I had hit adolescence and found myself face to face with my high school guidance counselor, who asked me, ‘What do you want to be?’, the truth was, I had no idea. At age 18, I had run through scenarios for so many different careers, my mind quickly flooded with ideas.  Realizing there was no way I could major in the ‘Force’ and I couldn’t cook toast, I blurted out the next career that had spun to the front of my brain. A teacher.

I spent the next 4 years of college being educated on how to teach others. I almost changed my major twice in those 4 years until my mom reminded me the first 4 years of college were on her and my Dad. Any subsequent years spent in a 101 class I would have had to pick up the tab. I confirmed the length of time I would have to spend in college with my advisor had I decided to switch majors during what was my sophomore year. I don’t remember the exact amount of time over the 4 year threshold lain down by my mother, I just remember him telling me it would be more. He might have said years, months, he could have said days. It took 3 minutes of consulting my budget (which was being supported as a part of the janitorial staff at the University cafeteria) for me to make my decision.  I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. In 4 years.

Sixteen years later I am closer to being a bullwhip and revolver carrying archeologist than I am a teacher. And the truth is, I still don’t know what I want to be. Currently I am in the construction industry but that has only come after stops in car sales, office equipment, business consulting, HVAC installations, insurance, the healthcare industry, retail sales, unemployment, forklift operator, and car sales (a second go round). I’ve had enough W2’s in my lifetime to wallpaper a house. This year when I did my taxes and only had one job to file for, Turbo Tax prompted me if I wanted to add another positon with a ‘Really? Just one?’  I was waiting for the site to make me swear on Scouts’ Honor or offer up my oldest child.

I have changed jobs for family reasons, money, more money, the idea of being able to have a job title of some measure of importance, and out of necessity (also known as unemployment). Admittedly, I have found reasons to justify my moves between careers.  Sometimes it was beneficial and other times it wasn’t. I have spent so much of my working life in search of what I wanted to be I forgot something more important than what I want to be.  I forgot to remember who I am.

I first discovered it 11 years ago and again 8 years ago.  I am reminded of it every time I walk in to the house from work and I see my girls. Every time a scared voice calls me at 2 am to battle against nightmares or thunderstorms. It is crystal clear who I am when I spend a night on the sofa or floor while my sick daughter sleeps in my bed.  On my side of the bed.  Usually on my pillow. Each kiss good morning and good bye, every glance, every smile, giggle, and hug reminds me. Every time I get mad because neither of them seemed to hear me say ‘brush your teeth’ or ‘be sure to go before we leave’, I remember who I am.

I’m a father. It has been staring me in the face all along.  “Account Executive”, “Sales Consultant”, “Product Specialist”, those titles come and go. And as important as they are to making sure I can keep the lights and heat on in my house,  jobs are the reason we set our alarms for morning but its my kids who wake me up and get me out of bed (even when they don’t jump on me with their elbows aimed directly at my midsection).  Because of who I am, I stay concious of the examples I set, it is why I have been known to jump with jubilation over events normal folks (non-parents) would find trivial (any parent can rattle off a laundry list of those “trivial” events right here), it is how I learned what love really is, what my parents were talking about when they told me ‘Wait until you have kids’, and why it doesn’t matter what I want to be.

What I want to be doesn’t mean anything to my kids. They don’t care how many cars, copiers, insurance policies, services or widgets I have sold in my life.  They don’t care what my customer satisfaction scores are or if I’m an Associate or a Consultant or Executive.  They only care that I come when they call my name, I never get scared of the dark or thunderstorms or going in to the basement first.  I want there to be no question about just how passionately I take the role of ‘Daddy’ because it has been my daughters who have shaped and defined not what I want to be but who I am.

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The malaise is gone (and hopefully so is ever having to use the word ‘malaise’ again). The spark is reignited. There are stories to be told. Fish have died, we’ve had somewhere in the neighborhood of 44 1/2 feet of snow, I got a new job, I still have an 11 year old and 8 year old running around my house, and my wife and I continue to have conversations with one another. I hope to be back at Founding a Father on some level of consistency if for no other reason than for my own passion to write. Those of you who have hung around, I thank you. I knew I would be back, I just wasn’t sure when and it is great to see you all again. For those of you who are discovering this site for the first time, welcome. Consider this a great time to jump aboard.

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Counting Cars

Besides instructing our kids about the basic fundamentals of getting through the day without eating things off of the floor and why coloring the dog with permanent markers is not allowed, parents have the unenviable task of entertaining our children.  In spite of the massive collection of toys in our house, parents are called on to be domestic social directors.  From sun up until sun down, we do our very best to make sure the docket is full of meaningful activities for our kids to be a part of outside of banging on pots and pans and watching the Dora DVD for an 67th time.   We do our best to fill the days scheduling play dates, soccer practice, t-ball, and karate, trips to the library, and planning vacations.  Our kids’ calendars are filled to make sure they have the “proper” mental stimulation their developing minds apparently crave according to talk show hosts and celebrity authors.

But sometimes your library card goes missing (probably hidden by the tiny person tugging at your jeans) and a rainy day has canceled practice. It’s those times, when your child looks up at you with those eyes that say ‘Ok, now what Dad’; you need to rely on your ability to improvise.

I’m not sure what prompted me to sit with my daughter on our front porch to count passing cars but I’m sure it had something to do with avoiding a possible grand mal seizure if I had to watch one more episode of Caillou.  I had run out of manufactured stimulation, the staccato popping of the Fisher Price vacuum cleaner had lost its pop, and 47 out of the 64 Crayola’s had been snapped in two. So in the same vain my Dad created games like Coma and dug a hole in our backyard and called it a “swimming pool”, Hannah and I started counting cars.

I took Hannah outside and sat her next to me at the top step of our front porch.  Our attention tuned vigilantly to the street in front of us.  As the first car zipped by, we counted. 1.  As if we were automobile census takers, we continued to count the cars going by.  We eventually moved on to shouting out the colors of the passing cars and eventually graduated to naming the manufacturer.  I pointed out Hondas, Fords, Volkswagens, and any other make that happened by our line of sight.  Adding to the anticipation for the next car was our neighbor’s boxwood shrub which was the size of a small moon.  The shrub eclipsed the street so any car coming down the road seemed to emerge from the bush and directly in to our sightline.

There was never a scheduled time for the two of us to go out and count the cars. Just as the game was born out of spontaneity, so was too was the prompt to walk outside, plop down on the top step, and wait for a car to drive by.  It was as simple of a thing to do with my daughter as was my Dad shoveling a hole in our backyard and filling it with water when I was a kid.  It only involved my daughter and I being able to spend time with each other without the distractions or time consumption of daily “structure”.

We moved almost 7 years ago and when we did, Hannah and I stopped counting cars.  Our house sits among the rest of the land locked neutral colored houses with their vinyl clapboard siding and macadam driveways in our ‘No Outlet’ development.  We tried it, but the game lost its thrill after the third time we counted the neighbor’s Nissan.  However, had we not moved, I’m not sure how long I would have had with Hannah counting the cars.  Being a kid, her interests and motivations changed like the phases of the moon.  I’m sure our time counting would have waned eventually.

Of course, as a parent who is so keenly attuned to the memories made with my kids, there is a piece of me that longs to sit back down on the porch with my daughters.  The vividness of those times counting cars can be seen more clearly in my mind than some of our summer vacations we have taken.  I can hear myself asking my daughter what number came after 6 and I can hear Hannah’s voice asking if the last car had been a Ford or a Volkswagen.  I can remember her sitting next to me completely consumed in the moment and with the anticipation for the next car. I can remember being more aware of her sitting flush against my leg as I was of the cars. I can remember how it felt when it was just her and I sitting there.

I understand the point of entertaining our children can be for something specific like preparing their brains for the rigors of law school or wherever else you have pre-destined them to continue on with their education or something as simple as buying time until they are ready for a nap.  We entertain them with all sorts of activities, plans, and events in order to strengthen their minds, forge bonds, and create memories that we hope will last a lifetime but sometimes it doesn’t take structure or organization in order to do any of those things.  Sometimes all it takes is for you and your kids’ willingness to improvise and step outside of the structure, on to the front porch, and wait for a few cars to count.

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