Tag Archives: time

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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Flying By

Time has a way of catching up to us.

And not only does it catch up but it flies right past us.  One minute we’re young, able to function on less than 3 hours of sleep after drinking for 12 hours straight and the next we can’t get out of bed after 8 hours of sleep without wincing at the pain shooting from our backs.  That full head of hair is replaced by a scalp that looks like the top of a globe.  Vibrancy, flexibility, and a thirst for adventure all take a back seat to your knees cracking any time you bend them and doing whatever you can to pencil a mid-afternoon nap in to your day.

The other weekend, my wife and I went out with friends of ours for a night on the town.  Unlike our typical dinner out and home in time to fall asleep watching Saturday Night Live, we were going to bar hop, drink too much, and stay out later than normal.  By the second bar, I had seen more neck tattoos than on a marathon of Miami Ink, my beer was lukewarm, I was tired, and ready to go home.

The flames of youth I thought I could reignite with an alcohol accelerant and the spark of local bars never happened.  I realized I am much better suited to a decaffeinated coffeehouse.  It was clear, that youthful portion of my life had passed me by.

But that’s life.  While I’m prone to delusions of grandeur and irrationality, even I have accepted certain aspects of my life are finished and best left to the past or nostalgic conversations.  I have accepted, my current state will eventually end as well and I’ll enter in to whatever the next stage of life is (I’m praying it doesn’t involve yelling at kids who walk on my front lawn quite yet).  I’ve come to grips with being bald, wearing a knee brace for even meaningless physical activity, and the pains of waking up in the morning.  I’ve reached a point of recognition that all of the moments in our lives are brief.  These moments are not sustained by longevity which is why, given the opportunity; we tend to wax rhapsodic about them long after they have passed us by as a way to remember.

So I sat at in the kitchen pondering when I will see the next phase of my life in the rearview mirror getting smaller.  What will the next stage will bring?  How in the world did I get so bald?  Wouldn’t it be nice to stop time, just for a little bit?  I was broken out of my reverie after hearing a thud from the 2nd floor that was either a boulder or my kids jumping off of my bed.  I figured it had to be the kids because surely I wouldn’t have missed a large rock sitting on my bed that morning.

After I checked the floor joists and told my kids to stop pretending to parachute off of my bed, I realized I didn’t need to make time stop because, I’m a Dad.

Parenthood is the one thing in my life time can’t touch.  From the moment the doctor told me it was a girl until long after I draw my last breaths in this world, I am going to be Dad (or any form of Dad, it just depends on what my kids want).

In the decade I have been a father, I have watched myself get older.  I have enough gray hair on my head (from what’s left up there) that I stopped counting the number because it would take a mathematical equation to figure out how many I have.  I have felt pains in joints, seen just how out of touch I am with Generation Y, and have continued to make more and more comments to my kids I remember my parents telling me.  I have changed.  Points in my life which have helped to define me over this past decade have come and gone except for being Dad.

As the responsibilities of this title have changed as my kids have, the title itself hasn’t.   When I was changing diapers during a downpour in the back of the car, I was Dad.  When I am called in to reassure their safety in a thunderstorm, they call for Dad.  Whether I’m cleaning up a broken glass, a crayon mural on the dining room wall, kissing ‘boo-boos’, helping with math homework, making dinner, running to dance class or soccer or to basketball, or sitting back to give them the independence they need,  I’m always Dad.

I accept those times that have passed by were all a part of the normal course of life.  Each one with an expiration date I either didn’t see coming or tried to ignore when it came.  So my time hanging out in bars, being able to meld seamlessly with a younger crowd, having hair, being able to bend my knees without grunting, or any of the other times in my life that have helped to form and define who I am may be over but that’s ok.  I will keep them in my memories so I can occasionally call back on them or try to relive them, despite how unsuccessfully I might be.  Those memories are important but there is the one thing that best defines me now and is immune to the effects of time.  Regardless of age or whether I will ever understand the purpose of a neck tattoo, when, why, or how my kids need him, their Dad will be there. No matter how rapidly the rest of my life is flying by.

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