Monday, February 27, 2012

Man Cave Monday: Dads, Daughters, and Clothing

by Kevin

My oldest daughter is 12 years old and she is amazing.  She is smart, beautiful, funny, and outgoing.  She loves to sing Broadway show tunes and read books.  She also still loves to play!  She would probably die if she knew I said this, but last weekend she had a couple of girlfriends over to spend the night and the next day they were outside playing The Hunger Games.  I loved it!  She was using her imagination, playing dress up (although she would never admit that it was dress up!) and pretended our front yard was the arena for the games. 

I share all of this because somehow she came to the age where I cannot comment on her clothes.  I can comment on everything else (“Gee, Julia, I really like how you used your bow and arrow to kill the tribute from District 8 out there!”) but her clothes are now off limits.  The other day, Julia wore some pants that I felt were too tight, but, unbeknownst to me, momma had already taken care of it.  Here’s how it went down:

Dad:     “Julia, those pants are too tight.”
Julia:    “I know, mom already told me.” (Julia skulks off to change)
Mom:  (walking up) “I already took care of it.”
Dad:     “Good, but I just wanted to say that I don’t like those pants.”
Mom:  “You can’t tell her that.”
Dad:     (flabbergasted) “But, YOU told her that YOU didn’t like them.”
Mom:  “I know, but you can’t tell her that…all you are supposed to say is – ‘Julia, you are beautiful.  That’s all she ever needs to hear from you.’”

Now, I’m not a tyrant about clothes, in fact, I think I’m pretty easy going (unless said clothing shows too much shoulder or belly or leg or is too tight or too short or is a two-piece bathing suit), but when did I lose the ability to share what I want my daughter to wear?  When she was younger I did a pretty fair job of color coordinating when I was in charge of her wardrobe!

It’s just another sign that Julia is slowly becoming a woman. So I have my marching orders – “Julia, you are beautiful!  Whether you are playing The Hunger Games outside or fighting with mom over clothing.  You are beautiful when you sing songs from Wicked or when you are kicking ass at National History Day at MTSU.  You are beautiful when you use me as a pillow like you did last night while we watched the Oscars or when you are talking about your Christian faith with our Children’s Director like you did Sunday morning.  You are an amazing, beautiful woman, Catnip, and I will always be proud to be your father.”

But could you please wear a one-piece bathing suit at the beach this summer?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The search for space

One of the things we find ourselves discussing around here a lot is the need for more space. We each have a list of ideas and "must-haves" for our next house. And it's practically a Sunday afternoon ritual to all pile in the van and troll the neighborhoods we like for an open house or two. (Remind me, in future blogosphere discussions, to tell you what a kick we get our of giving realtors fake names. Our current favorite: Bob and Amy Duncan. You Good Luck, Charlie fans will get that. Teddy, Gabe and Charlie are usually mortified.)

Perhaps you read my husband's musings about space on Man Cave Monday. Sad story, isn't it? I mean, I'm watching him now, snuggled--asleep--under a blanket on the couch, his David Baldacci book about to slide to the floor, and think, "Does he really NEED a man cave?" But then, it hits me: if he has that man cave he keeps talking about, would he stop trying to use the pretty pillows to sleep on?" (Note to self: contact realtor asap.)

 The idea of more space began in earnest about five and a half years ago. I was carrying my third child, that small-but-mighty ball of energy, who was due in December of that year. I wondered how, when we took up every inch of space in our 1507 square feet of paradise, we would shift to make room for another person’s things.  Who would share a room with whom? Where would the new toys go? Would we really need new toys? Then there was the reality of moving from a one-on-one to a zone defense; the children would now outnumber the parents. What if they were to lock us in one of these small rooms and not let us out?

Incidentally, that child turned five in December. Five—do you hear me?! She came into the world on her due date and has done things her way ever since. (After a longish labor, she finally decided she was ready and I delivered her, unassisted, before the L&D nurse could even find gloves. My husband and my doula caught her as she skidded across the bed.) She’s a firecracker, I’m telling you.
My space worries needn’t have caused me any concern­—we still occupy the same space we did five years ago. But there are days when I think we simply have to move before sundown. I dream about a laundry room with a utility sink. I covet walk-in closets and a big pantry. Don’t even get me started on a master suite or I will cry out loud. And now, with the onset of Pinterest, there are untold pretty spaces to long for that I've yet to discover and re-pin.
But the truth is, I would find it so hard to move from this home. Our beloved cat, Phineas, who lived with us here for 11 years, is buried in the front yard. I brought all these people home from the hospital to this house, nursed them in this living room, watched them take their first steps right here. The playhouse my dad (better known as Paw Paw) built in the back yard a few summers ago still needs painted. I can’t let some other family take ownership of the playhouse. Not when I have pictures of my four-year-old son (now eight!) clambering up the ladder to sit beside Paw Paw on the roof and hammer nails. Even this afternoon, my daughter and niece are out in the playhouse making mud pie sandwiches. My two older children are sitting side by side on the couch, watching Return of the Jedi. Meanwhile, I'm eyeing with disdain, a group of teens on the street in front of my house, as they keep inching closer and closer into my driveway, without thought or boundary. I'm fighting the urge to shout, "Get off my lawn, derelicts!" The only thing stopping me is Kevin's nostalgic story about doing the same thing when he was that age.
"You stood around with eight other teenagers on your neighbor's lawn, uninvited?" I asked.
"That's probably why she opened the front door and shouted, 'Get off my lawn, derelicts!' to the lot of you."
However, we are moving at a rapid pace toward those years when teenagers gather in our kitchen, eating us out of house and home. We want to welcome them, have space for them. Plus, we would just love a nice big porch, a fine deck, and on, and on.
Still, I’m astounded by the amount of love and energy that can live in 1507 square feet of space. These three progeny I nurture here are bright, wonderful people. Do they fuss and fight when things feel crowded? Yes. Do they complain when someone jumps in the shower first? Yep. Do they constantly jockey for the position of who gets the room with the half bath? You betcha. Do they want to move into another home? Apparently not. When the subject was broached recently, they voted unanimously to stay right here where we are, “in our house.” My preteen sums it up by making clear her desire, “I want my own room. But I don’t want to move.” In other words, you all do what you want, just give me my space.
But at the end of the day, it's really only about 300 square feet of space that matters. It's then that we are all smooshed together in the den, watching Cosby reruns, playing the Wii, reading stories, giving hugs and good night kisses.
So if I really get a hankering to move, I’m going to have to go with Little Miss Five-Year-Old to help that happen. She knows how to get things moving. After 26 hours of labor, she finally decided it was time to move—and there she was, finding her space.
She’s the one who started this whole space issue in the first place.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Comics, Children, and Man Space

Welcome to Man Cave Mondays!  Every Monday I will post my thoughts and reflections on marriage and parenting from the male perspective.  My wife has this blog six days out of the week, but she asked if I would like to have some space on it one day a week.  That’s very generous of her, since I don’t possess a real Man Cave at the Cloverwood Chalet in Nashville.  Yes, gentlemen, as a husband to one wife for 18 years, father of three children, my physical space in this world – my private retreat – has been relegated to the virtual world (or the bathroom when nature calls). 

My experience with losing space has been a gradual one.  When my wife and I first married, she very generously supported a hobby that I developed as child – collecting comic books.  I was always a huge Superman fan and loved to collect all things Man of Steel.  After our marriage and subsequent three bedroom ranch home purchase, I had one whole bedroom for my comic book collection!  I painted the Superman “S” shield on one of the walls, painted the other three walls in red, blue and yellow, and began the process of creating my own private retreat.  It really was beautiful.  Superman posters, Superman comic books, and Superman toys (unopened of course!)  My weekly trek to my local comic book store was a highlight of my week.  I loved reading the stories, the fantasy, the adventure, and the just plain fun that comic books brought.  It was a great, healthy escape.

Then, we made children.  Without even realizing it my man space began to shrink.  First, it was the collecting itself.  I stopped collecting comic books the summer before my first daughter was born.  The money had to be used for diapers, clothes, layette (whatever the hell that was), and all things baby.  The spare room was turned into a nursery for her so my comic room was safe…for now.  Soon, it was time for child number two!  The comic room had to go.  I remember clearly painting over my beloved “S” shield with periwinkle so that my daughter could move into that room and my son would have the nursery.  What happened to the comics?  They were moved into my parents’ attic. 

So, now, my hideaway consists of the Sunday paper and the bathroom (fellas, do you feel me on this?).  However, while I have lost physical space my life has actually grown.  Every one of those losses were opportunities to grow into my own manhood.  Cloverwood Chalet is a tight fit.  Five people and a cat in 1200 square feet of home ain’t much space, but when we’re laughing over pancakes (like we did this morning) after a slumber party with two more girls in the house, well, it feels like I have all the room in the world.

NOTE: The blog is in my wife's, even in the virtual world, my man space is shared!

BY Kevin