When You Wish Upon a Star

ImageIt’s Spring and that means one thing around my house – baseball! With two boys playing ball, one in “Select” league, it also means that I’m lucky if I’m home two nights during the work week. It also means that CareerMom, who works out of the house, is stuck doing the bulk of the schlepping back and forth. She called me yesterday and–you know how this works–asked if I planned on going to my son’s game last night. I could tell by the sound of her voice that there was an undercurrent of hope that I would not.

What happened was that we had an early game last night, which meant getting there really early (coach wants them there 45 mins early), which meant my wife had to either pick my daughter from DayCare early and be late to the game, OR drop off my son at his game,  and then drive ALLLL the way back to get my daughter.

I made it easy on my wife and skipped the game and picked up my daughter and went home. Throughout the evening, my wife kept me updated via text messages, so I got all the benefits of being there, with little of the nervousness.

But a great thing came out of that–I got to spend quality time with Baby Girl. She’s four now and she’s a talkative spirit. After she fell asleep on the couch and then woke up again around 7:45, we spent 45 wonderful minutes on the back porch, under a blanket, watching the stars and airplanes, and making wishes. With three kids (did I mention my friend has five?) that kind of quality time doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you have to squeeze every moment out of it.

When we found out we were having our third child, one of my fears was this very issue of spending quality time with that many different children, plus keeping a marriage healthy, plus keeping my career going. I wish I could say that I was wrong and it’s easy to do, but it’s not. Then again, maybe it depends on your definitions of success. All I know is that last night was a success. The first thing she said to me this morning was, “Daddy, do you remember making wishes on the wishing star last night?

I sure do Baby Girl. I sure do.

 

Remember when…

1. Being sick meant you felt quasi-bad for a day, but by the end of the day, you were second guessing whether or not you actually had felt well enough to go to the gym?

2. A million dollars sounded like a LOT more money than it does now when you really break it down in your head (taxes, mortgage payoff, etc.)

3. The one child that you had seemed like the hardest job ever.

4. You weren’t going to be one of these people who never travels overseas. After all, there’s plenty of time for that…

5. Vacations actually felt like vacations? Mostly because someone else was paying for it and you could just relax rather than busily trying to ensure the kids make a memory.

6.  Sex was REALLY exciting.

7. Your current job was simply a means to an end, and not a definer of you as a person to everyone else

8. You could stay awake at night (in bed) through an entire prayer.

9. Aerosmith was a fairly young band (you can also insert “U2” here)

10. Cold weather didn’t bother you and the beach was NEVER too hot.

11. You had friends that you could spend time with.

12. The cost of gas for your car was the most important expense you had.

13. You could eat an entire box of Krispy Kreme donuts and not notice the result the next day (uh huh, you know who you are)

14. Choosing between getting some sleep, or staying up and watching THE most important sporting event of the year on TV was a no-brainer.

15. You didn’t get mad when the fireworks went off on New Year’s Eve and July4th (thereby waking you and the kids up)

16. You thought reading a story to your kid(s) at night was going to be a wonderful and precious thing, rather than just another chore you have to do before you can get some quiet time.

17. You had time to actually cook…using knives and other fun utensils.

18. ANY alcohol at all–even cheap-o Mad Dog 20/20– tasted good to you.

19. Your parents looked young(ish)

20. You felt young(ish)

Tell me how you REALLY feel!

Next to perhaps husbands whose fumbling and bumbling, “couldn’t find his way through the mall without his wife” antics are well-documented by the media, the second most vilified social group in America, is the in-laws. Situationally, I think of the Griswolds in “Christmas Vacation.”

Every married couple has them, unless something devastating has happened, and it’s the in-law parents that we most hear about and make fun of. And while we all roll our eyes whenever we speak to others about them–regardless of whether or not we really feel that way–it’s not often we’re totally honest with our spouse about how we view our in-laws.

No? Well, draft up a “Will” and then give me a call.

I’m almost ashamed to admit that CareerMom and I, at the ripe old ages of…um…our current age, haven’t had a will, despite having two children (now three). It’s been ever-present on our minds, but we just never took the time to do it. I started doing one on some software I got for free with my tax software a couple of years ago, but I gave up after about five minutes of looking at the dozens of document options and becoming completely overwhelmed. But as luck would have it, God put people on this earth who have taken it upon themselves to figure out how to simplify these things for people like us. I think their formula goes something like this:

“Find guilt-driven parent. Convince them they need a will and promise to do it dirt cheap. While you’re in their kitchen talking to them about estate planning, scare the bee-Jesus out of them by explaining how their kids may not actually get ANYTHING thanks to the U.S. Government, and then hit them up for several add-ons to pay for our coming out to their house and doing this thing.”

So now we have a Will. We also have one of those “Don’t let me die like Terry Schiavo” documents too that tells whomever I deem appropriate, that I don’t want to be kept alive if I’m not eating on my own and wiping my own bum whenever I go to the bathroom.

In the course of this process, we had to decide a few things, such as:

  1. If we both get taken out by one of those parachuting Chick-Fil-A cows, who gets the kids? What if our first choice for custodians are also in the car and die? Who is our second choice?
  2. If any of the above happens, who decides how our money is spent?

Now here’s where it gets hairy. When it comes to deciding who gets your kids, naturally for many people–certainly for us–our immediate family came to mind, but so did every conceivable reason why they should, or should NOT be given such a responsibility.

  • They’re too old
  • They’re too sick
  • They live in Tim-buck-too (OK, Tennessee, but close enough apparently)
  • They have too many other grandkids to worry about
  • They don’t need this responsibility at their age
  • They live too far from MY family
  • blah
  • blah
  • blah

At a time like this, it’s hard to take your emotion out of it and step back logically and look at the situation. Given my familial background, and the fact that I’m closest to the one person who is probably the least related to me, either by blood or by law, I think I have a unique ability to do this–to separate what’s best for the kids, from what’s not going to hurt someone’s feelings.

Some call this ability a gift–others call it mean, brutal honesty. Only time will tell.

At any rate, the conversation that ensued while CareerMom and I debated these questions was not pretty–and it’s also not over despite having signed the papers. For every logical reason I have about why such and such a person should or shouldn’t be doing something with our kids or any money we have left over after I hire Guns N Roses to play at my cremation, CareerMom has her feelings about it and it generally differs from mine.

I foresee numerous posts stemming from this topic, but today’s take-home message is this: “Sure, your spouse SAYS they like your mom’s slightly eccentric mannerisms. And your dad isn’t crazy…he’s just gruff. But present the idea of having your children live with them for the rest of their pre-adult lives and see what your spouse says.”

Slummin’ in North Atlanta

IMG00002-20091017-1913 At times, I find myself completely ill-prepared for parenting. One would think that by now, I’d have a general handle on the basic tenets of parenthood, but every now and then a new experience reminds me just how far I still have to go.

The past Saturday night was “Movie Night with Dad” at my son’s school. The gist: “Bring your blankets and flashlights and come sit out under the stars and watch the animated movie, “Space Chimps” with your kids!”

OK sure. That meant turning down Georgia Tech/Virginia Tech tickets, missing part of the Alabama/South Carolina game, and it also meant sitting outside in the cold, miserable mist for the duration, but MLI wanted to do it and I didn’t want to let him down.

So I packed Hot Chocolate, a neon glow stick, a blanket, jackets and our little lawn chairs and out we headed. Arriving at the school, instead of a crowded soccer field, instead we found a big handpainted sign: Movie Night Moved into the Cafeteria.

(so much for hoping MLI would get cold and want to go home early)

Gathering our stuff, we headed inside and found ourselves faced with a jam-packed cafeteria full of lounging parents and screaming kids. It was hot; it was crowded; and it was noisy. NOT my favorite three conditions for public events.

Determined to make the most of it, MLI and I found a spot near the middle-edge of the gym and I unpacked the chairs and got us set up…only to immediately realize we were sitting in front of a 3-foot concert speaker that started blaring Miley Cyrus tunes! AAAARRRGGH! (BTW – Would someone tell her she CAN’T sing!)

Luckily, I was able to scooch our chairs a bit over so that the speaker wasn’t directly in our ears. Thus positioned, we sat down to survey our kingdom, which consisted of a small square of hard cafeteria linoleum. I looked over at MLI and asked, “You OK buddy?” He looked up and nodded.

But you know how it is…the longer you sit somewhere, the more you notice the little details. For example, while we had eaten at home, seemingly every other parent there had brought pizza. In comparison, my hot chocolate seemed both unnecessary and meager.  Another “little” detail I discovered was that while I had pulled out the only two “lawn chairs” I had out of the dirty garage, other parents had their “Lands End” or other brand name chairs with them. Mine were dingy green with (is that a spider egg?!) “things” hanging from cobwebs off the arm handles–theirs were coordinated color schemes and heavy-duty steel tubing. Mine was Wal-Mart “on sale” pastel and theirs were “corporate branded Thank You” gifts with cup holders and monogramming.

I was truly embarrassed, both for myself and for MLI. In all fairness, this event was supposed to be outside in the dark, where little details like wouldn’t matter; but it was just another lesson in the fact that when you’re a parent, you have to be prepared for everything. Next time, I promise to step it up a notch. After having already lashed out at another parent this past week after she e-mailed everyone asking for donations for a basket (after having mentioned how she and her husband were donating a set of Golf Clubs and Falcons Tickets with sideline passes) I really need to show that I’m not a total tool.

Sorry Chipper Jones’ family. I didn’t mean to bring down the “wealth index” of the rest of the school!

On a sidenote, despite all the problems, I got a firsthand opportunity to watch how my son handles the opposite sex. About halfway through the movie, a cadre of three girls came weaving their way through the chairs and blankets. Coming to a halt in front of MLI, they all said, “Hi Ethan.” I looked over and he was hunkered down in his chair trying not to look at them. Then, one of them had the audacity to lean over and whisper into his ear! I was dying!!! It was great. I tried to get him to go with them and sit up front, but he wasn’t budging. Can’t say I blame him. I was similarly shy when I was his age. But that made the rest of the evening all worthwhile. For me anyway. For MLI, I think the unlimited Starbursts did the trick.