“Yes, they are my new glasses, gentle please- give them back to me please.”
“Neeeuw ghasses Papa!”
“Yes buddy, new glasses- they are Papa’s- No! No! Don’t bend them like that please! Those are my new glasses!”
This is not the first time this scenario has played out in a week. You’d think I’d catch on, but this kid is sneaky. We might be playing with trains on the floor or reading a book and he’ll nonchalantly nudge closer to me, acting all affectionate-like, and then boom! He lunges at my glasses and grabs them off my face like one of those 25 cent sticky hands snapping a sheet of paper.
This time we weren’t doing either of those things- this time we were playing karate man. Karate man is a game consisting of me saying “Heeeee-yaaa!” and either lightly hitting or kicking him as if we were in a very important karate match. I just realized how bad that sounds when I write it out. It’s actually very disciplined, and honestly, I’m barely touching him- but at lightening speed.
Trust me, it’s not a one way match mind you- he retaliates. He comes at me with kicks announced with “Hheeee-hha!” Sure, his kicks are slow and drunk, and most don’t land- but he’s learning the sport. And he practices a lot, mostly on our new refrigerator- he walks right up to it and points at it, “Nuuee fwidge,” then karate mans it with his chunky foot, “He-haaa!”
“Okay buddy, can I have my glasses back now please? Please?”
He holds them up proudly in his fat greasy fingers like a new shiny trophy, “Neuww ghassis!”
“Aw please buddy, just give them back- I need them to see.”
He points to my eyes, “Iiiiyeeeeeees! Tuuuuuee iiyeees!”
“Yeah buddy, two eyes. How about those glasses, huh?”
“Bubo. Yes. Two eyes. Can I have my glasses back? Please.”
He ignores my plea. “Alright Bubs, I’m gonna count to three, and then you NEED give them back, okay- I’m counting to three. ”
“Tue iyeeeeeeeeees,” he points.
I honestly began this withoutthinking about how it might end. But how can it endreally? I’ll tell you how- it ends with mewith my glasses on my face- that’s the only way this ends- I mean, I started counting- I’m a goddamn disciplinarian now.
Upon hearing “one” he furiously hits his belly button with my glasses, “Whaaann beeeboe!”
I hold back a proud smile and feign furrowed eyebrows.
“Whan nosssseeee,” he points to his nose.
“Twooooooooo,” I draw out.
But really, I only have one more digit to count and then he finds me out- I should have counted to five- he’ll comply though, right? I mean, I‘M COUNTING- that’s real. Kids know that’s real. But what do I do if he doesn’t let them go? I can’t grab them out of his hand- he’s holding on too tight- He knows! He knows I got nothing!
“Tuueee feeeet! Whaan, tuuuee… tuuee feet!”
All those books I’ve read over the last couple years on child rearing and disciplining- none of them prepared me for this moment- sure, follow though on your directives they said- set boundaries- let your child use his whole brain or some shit like that- what they don’t tell you is how to take your glasses out of your toddler’s hands when he’s holding them hostage! This kid is not showing any signs of budging- in fact- he’s just smiling at me like he knows something I don’t- like he’s got me right where he wants me.
So this is how you’re gonna play it, huh Arlo…
We size each other up with our eyes and I give him a moment to decide our fates.
“Heeeeeeeeee-Yaaaaaaaaa!” I resort to my secret karate man move left only for rare situations like these. Palms up, both my hands sink into either side of his neck. It’s his most ticklish spot- he has no defense for this move- in fact, he loses all motor skills and his chin rolls clamp down on my hands and he throws my glasses. He has no choice but to giggle uncontrollably until I relent, which I do after a few moments of listening to his contagious toddler laughter.
He recovers. I pick up my glasses and look at them. Other than looking like they’ve just been slimed, they survive another attack.
“Good god kid, we’ve gotta wash your hands!”
He pops up and scampers down the hallway to grab his hand washing chair.
I clean my glasses on my shirt and listen to our dining room chair being dragged across the kitchen to the sink, while he sings out the new family motto, “Wash haaands! Wash haands!”
I’m sure all parents have a little bit of fear about how their child might turn out as an adult- or just as worse- an adolescent. I mean, could I really still love Arlo if he turned out to be a dickwad like Justin Bieber? I know I am supposed to say I will- and I will- but will I?
I remember seeing Justin Bieber on The Today Show when he was really young. His mom was his chaperone and she did most of the talking for him. Honestly, Justin seemed like a sweet little boy with an amazing voice. Excuse me while my embarrassment fades following my admission of watching The Today Show one time ten years ago. Hey, Matt Lauer was still cool then… No he wasn’t.
Anyway, back to the point- Justin Bieber is a dickwad. So, Arlo, if you ever come home with any haircut resembling Justin Bieber’s, I will punch it off your head.
Well, except for maybe this one- you can slide with this one.
Sorry folks, sometimes I digress. But lucky for us, I started with my digression today- I have a more serious type of fear to tell you about. I don’t even know what to name it- I don’t think anxiety would be correct- I’m not walking around feeling anxious all the time- it’s deeper than that, like way inside of me and most of the time it’s hard for me to recognize. It’s not necessarily worry either. I don’t know what it is- I know it’s there though- and it first started happening in conjunction with fatherhood.
I’ve never been one to live with much fear- being who I am I have always been overly cautious- meaning why should I be scared if I’m so careful. Ever since I was a kid, I have always taken too much time to analyze a situation before taking action- I think that’s why I could never learn to ollie. Instead of actually trying to ollie with the skateboard, I would sit and stare at the board and try to figure it out in my head- I mean why fall over and over when I could just figure it out in my head first- that approach probably ended my professional skateboarding career.
I can’t say that I have never really avoided dangerous things either- I mean, minus the ollie- that was just a case where the cost/benefit of ollie(ing) for the admiration of friends did not outweigh the possibility of broken bones (which I still have never had to this day).
I have done semi-dangerous things though. I motorcycled for a while- once even back and forth across the country. On a separate occasion however, I did have an accident with a pickup truck- it ran a red light- and I ran into it (that was five minutes from home though)- it totaled my bike and I got pretty banged up- but I bought another one and rode again. But I don’t ride anymore though- I traded that in for a welder (which can be dangerous if you look at the light).
I also fought forest fires for six seasons. While doing that I did not have an incessant fear like the one I have now. For the most part I felt safe while doing that job with the exception of a couple occasions. But there was never a wiggling seed of fear buried deep within me like there is now.
Here, I’ll give you an example by telling you what happened a few days ago…
On Wednesdays during the summer in Missoula there is an event called Out to Lunch. Arlo and I check it out about every other Wednesday. We like to dress up in bright outfits, ride our bike there, listen to whatever live music is going on, and split an açaí bowl while we people watch. Yes, we both like açaí bowls- we eat more than just sardines together.
Well, this story is not about the event itself, but what happened on the way there. We ride the bike path from our house to downtown- it’s probably three miles- it cuts straight through town at a diagonal and we have to cross many busy intersections and end up on the riverwalk. This particular day we were riding we came upon a transient- he was middle-aged and scrubby with sun leathered skin. He was sitting on a bench looking through his bag and talking to himself over the blasting music from his transistor radio.
I remember all these details because when I’m with Arlo I have a tendency to analyze potentially dangerous situations- I usually (always) overanalyze and imagine every possible horrific outcome. (Like I said, I’ve never broken a bone)
Well, as we passed this man he looked up at us and gave me a bit of a crazed straggle toothed smile and said “Hey.” I looked over my shoulder and said “Hey” back and that was that. But then he yelled “Hey!” as if he wanted me to stop- I was ten feet past him now and thought about his crazed smile- nope, not stopping– instead I yelled back “Hey!” again and kept going. And then guess what happened? He yelled “HEY!!” again! I turned to look over my shoulder and he was running after us!
Yeah! With that brief glance I saw he was holding onto his lived-in filthy baggy blue jeans with one hand and his other hand was outstretched reaching toward us- running- not jogging- RUNNING!
I didn’t know what to do except pedal faster- and it’s hard to get some speed going when you are dragging a trailer with a kid in it who likes to collect rocks. Somehow (newfound dad strength) I gathered speed but I had to cross a road up ahead- but there was no way he would/could run that far that fast right? WRONG! He was still running after us- not yelling hey anymore, but screaming unintelligible words! And he was fast! Like former olympic athlete fast!
I readied myself for the road crossing- I either had to cross full bore and dodge a car or two- or slam on the brakes last second- Hopefully it would just be simple and there would be no cars coming and we could glide straight through to safety.
As I was about to hit the road I glanced back- he was still chasing after us and actually closing the gap. I turned back to the road and there were multiple cars coming each way- I slammed the brakes- well, squeezed them- it’s a bike- and there’s not much drama when saying I squeezed the brakes real hard. Anyway-
I jumped off my bike and let it fall- before it hit the ground I lounged for the bear spray I keep in the front of Arlo’s trailer- I stood up while pulling the pin ready to face my attacker who was just upon us.
“Hey man, I think this hat fell out of your bike trailer.”
He had a gasping but soft and reassuring voice. I looked at his outstretched hand that held Arlo’s blue hat. Arlo must have thrown it out when we were passing him.
I looked at the man. I looked at Arlo. I looked at the bear spray in my hand. I looked back at the man. He looked at the bear spray in my hand, “Don’t worry man, I’m an undercover cop- I used to run track.”
I sheepishly took the hat from his hand and put it in the bike trailer. I put the pin back on the bear spray and tucked it away. “Thank you,” I said, “You would never believe what I thought was happening.”
“Yes I can, I’m a father too.” He turned around and started walking back to his bench.
So, that was the happy ending that I just imagined right now while I was writing.
But the ending that kept going over and over in my head that day that I actually passed this guy was him chasing Arlo and I all the way to the river where the only way to get away from him was to plunge ourselves straight into the river where we were swept away to die tragically.
So, yeah, none of that happened except for riding by a strange transient sitting on a bench on the bike path on the way to lunch.
Sorry to take you all the way through that- BUT THAT’S WHAT IT’S LIKE FOR ME NOW IN MY HEAD! And that was truly the only way to make you understand.
I feel a tiny bit slimy and deceitful now. Sorry. Oh- and that’s actually Cate Blanchett, not a picture of the guy I was talking about.
I don’t know where this fear comes from. Maybe it’s biological. It obviously has to do with our new family sect and me not wanting to lose it. Before Arlo, I was fine walking down the street- now when I’m walking down the street I wonder if the next car is going to barrel right over me for no reason whatsoever. Maybe I’m not so crazy to be thinking this way though with all the random acts of violence happening everywhere.
Growing up in California we used to have earthquake drills at school all the time- alarm goes off, everyone under their desks. I’ve heard it’s changed- now it’s active shooter drills- lock the doors and hide. It’s scary to think I’m going to have send Arlo off to school in a few years and he’s going to grow up with these safety precautions as normal. Is he going to come home and ask me, “Papa, why do people want to shoot other people?” Or does/will our culture already have that answer ingrained in a five year old’s head?
Geez, I really just bummed myself out- I didn’t think I would actually feel what it might be like in a few years when Arlo asks me those kinds of questions- but I do. Maybe I’ll explore this topic at a later date, but for now I need a lighter ending…
I know at the beginning of this writing I said I would punch your Justin Bieber hair right off your head. I guess I just meant I don’t want you to become like Justin Bieber- you can still have a similar hairstyle as him. Also, it would be hypocritical of me to tell you that you couldn’t have a haircut like him, because I too, have had a Justin Bieber haircut. In my defense, it was sixteen years before he had it. I’m pretty sure he copied me…
Also Arlo, your Nana made me retake this Senior yearbook photo- don’t know why, but she did.
One last thing- this is how you are sleeping this very moment- it looks like you were struck down by a lighting bolt, and then it just decided to take a snooze on you.
Oh my. I just saw the date of my last post- January 28th. I didn’t plan to stay away for so long. I’m a bit embarrassed- it just goes to show I’m just an amateur blogger with no discipline. But I also kinda feel like I turned my back on you. But believe it or not, I did think about you- everyday actually- really, I did- I just didn’t have time to write- life got in the way- for three months. I had other deadlines to meet and after prioritizing my time, well, this fell by the wayside. But I’m back… but more importantly, Arlo’s back.
So maybe this should be a “Let’s catch up!” post- you know, let’s grab coffee and get back on the same page. I mean a lot has happened. It looks like the last post from January 28th was about snot bubbles and how I couldn’t manage to catch one on camera- what a rookie I was! I have so many photos of Arlo’s snot bubbles now it would make you sick-really, they would- they are really gross. The bubbles were so abundant that one got memorialized in a painting by Arlo’s uncle…
What if anything of significance has happened? I feel like there were a few things… In February Arlo met a US Senator. (My apologies if this photo is redundant to those of you who follow me on the Instagrams). While I was treating Kylie to a birthday lunch at one of Missoula’s finest baby friendly restaurants in town I looked up and spotted Senator Jon Tester having a lunch meeting. I waited for him to get up and then I pounced on him with Arlo and asked if he could resist holding a baby with the same haircut as himself. He happily obliged and agreed that Arlo did indeed have a nice haircut.
Another significant thing that happened in February was that Arlo began to crawl. Well, we use the term “crawl” pretty loosely in this house. Let me explain… Imagine if you woke up on the floor as a sloth- and your legs didn’t work. They were just dead weights that you had to drag begrudgingly behind you- and while doing that you thought that the harder and louder you slapped the floor with one hand, the faster you would go. That’s how he began to crawl three months ago and he’s still at it- this video was taken yesterday-
Sometimes when he gets to crawling too much we just tuck him away.
What else… Oh! In March he went to Hawaii- which he loved!
He spent time sitting on the beaches and in the middle of roads that have been cut off by lava.
And when we came back, most of the snow in Missoula had melted away…
… then the grass turned green…
… and then… Arlo turned 1… That’s right! One Freakin’ Year Old! Happy Birthday ya little biscuit!
I held Kylie back from renting a bouncy castle, a magician, and three clowns. She lost her deposits, but I mean, come on- that can wait until he turns two. Instead, this year we just had a small celebration with friends and family. He opened presents that were sent to him from California, Washington, Colorado, and North Carolina. Mama even let him eat cake.
That was only a couple of weeks ago actually. And since then he has already accomplished a few more things- He attended his first art show opening last weekend.
(I know, I am using Arlo to plug my show- color me ashamed, varnished, and raw)
Enough about me though. In some of the pictures it might look like Arlo is walking on his own now- he’s not- I picked and chose them for dramatic effect. (It worked, right?) He is walking pretty good if he is holding on to something like his red wagon walker or a table or couch- he’s cruising. He mostly likes to grab onto Kylie’s fingers or mine and take us for walks. That has been great for our backs considering we have to bend at a 90º angle and follow him around with our arms extended. The kid wants to walk real bad. But wouldn’t you if you looked like an injured three-toed sloth when you crawled around the floor?
One thing he does finally have going for himself are some teeth- which is nice. Here, let him show you- he loves showing off his pearlies- he’s been working on them for a year…
Don’t those just look painful, geez!
Anyway, so that’s where we are right now. My subsequent posts will be more specific- for now I just wanted to catch you up- and catch me up- I didn’t realize how much can happen in three months. Sometimes I forget to look at the bigger picture. It’s easy to get stuck on what happens in the day to day- which seems like not much. This parenting thing is a time warp- but that’s a whole other topic.
In closing, I realize that when I began Pa-In-Awe I said that I would not let this become a blog where I just posted cute pictures of my kid. This post seems to be the antithesis of that statement. So to even it out I will leave you with a not-so-cute photo of my kid…
This was taken last August when he apparently looked like a feisty old man who ordered avocado toast from a hipster for $6 and realized when he got his plate he had just paid $6 for a piece of toast with avocado on top.
Today Arlo blew the biggest bubble of snot from his nose I have ever seen. Instead of running for Kleenex, I ran for my camera (it was worthy, trust me). But as soon as I got back he gave me a quick smile and smeared it all over his face.
He’s been a little under the weather this month- mostly just a runny nose and a little congestion on some days. He can’t seem to kick it completely- I have succumbed to the idea that he will stay sick until the warm days come back.
Luckily (luckily?) we have a Nose Frida to help unplug his nose. What’s a Nose Frida? Well thanks for asking- A Nose Frida is device used for sucking out snot from a baby’s nose- powered by your own mouth- that’s right- it sucks- I mean you suck- well, I suck. Basically it’s a surgical tube about eighteen inches long with a removable filter at the end of it. At that end, you attach small hard plastic tube that is tapered to fit into the baby nostril. So you put it in his nose, and suck. It’s that simple- except for it’s not- because he hates it- don’t know why, but he hates it. So much so that it has become a game of sneaking up on him to suck his snot. Because he hates it. If he knows what you are up to he turns into “Arlo the Octopus on Meth”- limbs start flailing and his neck begins turning 195º back and forth at a rapid pace. His first words in life will most likely be expletives during one of these encounters. The kid’s got some fight in him.
Oh, are you still stuck on the gross aspect of it? I was the same way, trust me. When the Nose Frida was brand new and still in the box I remember looking at it and saying, “Yeah fucking right- that’s disgusting.” But now… Now I’m like “MY TURN KYLIE!” It’s basically exactly what hunting is like- and baby, it’s open season- I begin by making sure he is upwind and then I get real quiet and low- if he’s on the floor I approach in an army crawl with the mouthpiece in my mouth with the tube dragging at my side. The hard part is springing on him- I have to get both of his arms locked to his body with only one of my arms- leaving my head to pin his head to the floor or my shoulder- If I manage to do that then I have a 85% chance of lining up the Frida to his nostril and getting a clear suck. If I miss my opportunity, I have to pretend I was just playing around and sheepishly return to camp to regroup and debrief.
Sometimes it goes perfectly and there is a moment of pride when I’m walking to the sink to look at my bounty- sometimes it’s a good catch and I feel like I’ve done a good deed- meaning, he can breath happily again. But sometimes there’s not much in the tube and I have to wonder- What went wrong? Did I hit mostly septum? Do I try again? Or maybe he just doesn’t have much in there? Honestly, it’s a very thin line that I’m still learning to walk. I should have it figured out by the time he is fourteen.
OH! But here’s the grossest part, I think they make a Nose Frida for the bum hole.
Arlo’s first Thanksgiving happened a few days ago. We spent the afternoon at a friend’s house with lots of joyous people mixing, mingling, and drinking endless amounts of wine and keg beer. Arlo got passed around from person to person like a mid-value bottle of whiskey. At one point I looked over and he was being held by one our friends- a lovely millennial named Kale who was wearing a cowboy hat with a beautiful floral dress and a magnificent gold sequined jacket- his skin adorned with tattoos of a badminton racket, a shuttlecock, and a folded pocket knife. I can only hope that this will be the most traditional thanksgiving that Arlo ever has.
He did great with all the strangers and hoopla. He had a couple sad face breakdowns due to missed naps and wet diapers but all in all we were mostly just asked, “Is this kid always this chill?” He even disappeared into the kitchen where I heard he was dancing and wooing all the ladies. I, on the other hand, turned into the same shade of the couch and tried to camouflage myself into its pattern so no one would see me and try to make conversation. Call me anti-social but… well… that’s it, just call me anti-social.
Arlo, however, is becoming very social. He just talks and squawks all day long. Him and I go back and forth like we are having a conversation about the state of the nation. (it sounds pretty much the same as the ones they have on the television)
And he has started eating real food! I don’t know why I’m exclaiming this because it really just means two things:
It takes forever to feed him now. Not only am I still feeding him bottles, but then in-between we are trying to eat purees. He has had bananas, peas, sweet potatoes, lentils, carrots and this list goes on. Spoon feeding him is quite time consuming and messy. His face usually ends up looking like he slipped face-first into a pile of vomit.
And number two? It means his number twos stink- like human shit. Gone are the good ol’ days of wonderful cute breast milk poo poos that didn’t smell or make you want to open a window. Yup, that little thing has turned rotten and now makes his room smell like a dirty train station bathroom in Jerez, Spain. (Very specific and random comparison I know, but you’ve probably never seen the bathroom in the train station in Jerez)
So our days are filled with eating and stinking, going for walks and having lots of talks. He likes to stand and hold onto the windowsill and look out for what seems like hours (it’s really only minutes). We also practice sitting. He can sit on his own but he topples over sporadically and often so I stay close to catch his gigantic head. Speaking of gigantic I don’t even know how to describe the fat rolls this kid has now. I mean really, I thought they were big before but his rolls now seem to be redefining the the rules of human physiology. If you saw his arms you might think I put tight rubber bands up and down them.
Arlo will be seven months old on Tuesday. That means I’ve been a 3-day-a-week stay at home dad now for four months- holy crap! And let me tell you… it’s hard work. You know the movie Mr. Mom? You know how at the end of the day Michael Keaton finally gets the kids to bed and has a break and you feel absolutely exhausted for him? That’s me at the end of the day. And I only do it with one kid! Only three days a week! And so far he’s a pretty easy kid! I cannot- CANNOT imagine what this is like with two, three, four kids. I guess you just get used to it and figure it out?
I mean he’s only one kid, and he doesn’t even move on his own yet, he just sits around absorbing every little new thing. If we are looking out the window and a few leaves flutter, it’s absolutely amazing to him. He can stare at the dog and smile forever. The whisk and spatula that we play with everyday, are amazing and new everyday. It’s like I’m taking care of someone who dropped a massive amount of psilocybin mushrooms- I don’t care to stare at the wood grain on the windowsill, but I know how mind-blowing it must look to him- so I don’t pull him away because I don’t want him to have a bad trip.
It’s like this kid lives at a Phish concert. He just sits around and stares while his mouth makes unintelligible sounds and drools onto his food stained shirt. The music that we listen to is as repetitive as a Phish song- it just keeps going on and on. These songs are supposed to be good for his developing brain, but they turn mine to mush- and they get stuck deep in my head. If you come visit me at the bar and watch me make some cocktails chances are I have this song stuck in my head and I’m shaking to it…
I like to aete, aete, aete, aepples & baenanenaes,
I like to eat, eat, eat, epples & benenees
I like to oat, oat, oat, opples & bononos
As hard and mind-numbing bringing this kid up is, it is very rewarding- and I love it. I love seeing him in his crib when he wakes up in the morning- all wide eyed and ready for the day. I love to watch his arms flap with excitement over something as simple as a spatula. I love that right now I am sitting on the floor in the hallway watching him be by himself in a room laying on a yoga mat- and he’s just squealing and squawking away for no other reason other than he likes the way it sounds. I am profoundly grateful that I have a work schedule that allows me to stay at home and facilitate his introduction to the world. I get to show him what my version of the world is and what his can be- and as you can probably tell by this blog- it’s pretty damn weird. Oh crap, he just saw me- gotta go…