Celebrating Father’s Day when You’ve Lost a Child or Father

Recently I did a webinar with the Open to Hope foundation about celebrating Father's Day when you've lost a child or father. You can watch the webinar below below.

About the webinar: Father’s Day honors fathers and celebrates fatherhood. Yet for fathers who have lost a child or father, the day can be difficult or painful. Join author Abel Keogh, Dr. Heidi Horsley and Dr. Gloria Horsley who will discuss how you can manage this holiday. If you are a father who has lost a child or someone who has lost their father, this webinar is a perfect way to start the journey toward hope and healing.

Spring Soccer in Utah

 

Five years and one job ago I worked with someone whose wife coached soccer. While he was supportive of his wife, every spring he would comment that he hated the spring soccer season because it was always cold and/or rainy and/or windy. At the time, I didn't think much about what he said. Our boys were two young to play organized sports and I was leaning more toward putting them in other sports.

Years have passed. The older boys have gravitated toward basketball and football. Our oldest daughter prefers gymnastics and tumbling. The five year old watches with insane jealously every time they go to practice or compete at their games. Last fall we put in him soccer because that's the only sport they allow pre-kindergarten students to play. He loved it and enjoyed every moment of it. All winter he talked about wanting to play it again. February rolled around and so it was time for spring soccer signups. While I was in the process of registering him, the thought flashed through my mind what my co-worker said about the weather. I looked at the calendar and realized games didn't start until April and figured the weather wouldn't be much of an issue.

April rolled around and the season started. All the practices have been ice cold. All the games have been rainy or windy. My five year old has had a blast but it's been less than enjoyable for me and the other parents to watch the games and practices in such conditions. Last Saturday was his only bye week. That day it was 80 degrees and sunny. The forecast for his game tomorrow is 58 degrees with a 60% chance of rain.

The gods look down and laugh.

The Third Grade Email Dilemma

Last week our oldest child came home from school and proudly announced that he had a Gmail account and wanted to email his friend. This announcement took me and Marathon Girl by surprise. Email? In third grade? I assumed this day would come but I thought it would be something I’d be dealing with in toward the end of elementary school—not at the close of third grade.

Curious to see what was going on, I logged into my laptop and the next thing I know he’s typing in a username and password and there’s an inbox full of email messages from him and his friends have sent over the last couple of days. Then he proceeded to show me that he could email any student in the school district. He typed in the name of a girl who lived next door to us before we moved. Her name came on the screen and he typed her a quick message and clicked Send.

“I don’t know how I feel about you having a Gmail account,” I said.

“It’s not a regular Gmail, dad,” he replied. “It’s a school account that works with Gmail. It’s totally safe. The block out the bad stuff.”

Turns out the kid was right—well mostly right, anyway. After doing a little research I learned that the school district, starting in the third grade, gives kids in their own district email account that is run through Gmail. And apparently they do have decent safety standards because I tried to sending him test emails from work and other email accounts and all were bounced back as being undeliverable. Still, nothing is ever 100% secure in the online world. I work for a company sells computer security software to businesses. It’s a great product but I’m also well aware of the limitations that such products have.

So we’re letting him use email—for now. We really don’t want to discourage him (or any of our other kids) from learning computer technology or using email—especially where our oldest has such a gift for learning anything related to computers, smartphones, and tablets. The challenge is to find the balance between letting him learn and keeping him safe from all the online garbage out there. We have basic computer rules at home (Mom and Dad have access to everything they do online, the computer is a public space, no interactions with strangers, etc.) but now we’re going to have to incorporate some email rules too.

My only real complaint about the email incident has to do with the school district. It would have been nice to be notified that our kid would be getting an email address before he got one so we could have talked about email safety and rules ahead of the game.

Even though I’m a technical person, I always figured keeping up with my kids and new technology would be a challenge. Thankfully, I got an early reminder that it’s time to up my game.

Not the World's Greatest Dad

It’s time I return that World’s Greatest Dad Award.

Yeah, I know, that award is bestowed upon almost every dad on Father’s Day usually in the form of a coffee mug or T-shirt. And for the most part every dad who gets one of those deserves it.

Usually, I do enough to earn it—at least in the eyes of my kids.

But I’m returning my latest award it because I don’t deserve it.

Not by a long shot.

For those who have never received the World’s Greatest Dad Award, you really need to do two things to be worth of it.

First, you need to father offspring. That’s the easy part.

Then you need to do, at the very least, basic dad stuff like throwing a football with your kid, teaching them how to ride a bike, and going camping with them.

Pulling your six-year-old son’s loose tooth. Yeah, that World’s Greatest Dad stuff.

Screwing up the tooth fairy end of things?

Well, that’s why I’m returning the award.

Yesterday I pulled a lose tooth for my six-year-old son right before bedtime. As I tucked him in, he went to bed rubbing that empty spot in his mouth with his tongue, excited that the tooth fairy would be leaving some money under his pillow. I make a mental note to return in a couple hours and make sure the tooth fairy showed up.

Then, well, I kind of forgot to check.

I didn’t realize my mistake until the next morning. I was finishing up a run on the treadmill when the kid walks into the room with a concerned look on his face.

“The tooth fairy didn’t come,” he says dejectedly.

I just about fall off the treadmill.

Before I can say anything he adds, “Maybe it was because of the storm last night. Maybe she couldn’t get here because of the rain and the wind.”

“I think you’re right,” I say between breaths. “She’ll probably come after breakfast.”

I end my run a few minute later and head upstairs to get breakfast ready for the kids. Marathon Girl comes down and in a low voice I tell her that the tooth fairy didn’t come last night.

Marathon Girl gives me the look. Yeah, you know what look I’m talking about. That look. The Fix-it-or -Else look.

I tell her not to worry and I’ll take care of everything. I’m not the World’s Greatest Dad for nothing.

So while the kids are eating I head downstairs and discover that the tooth fairy has indeed left some money and the tooth is gone. In fact it looks like the tooth fairy has slipped in an extra dollar because she was late and caused a six-year-old boy to needlessly worry.

Feeling like I dodged a bullet I head up to our room to shower knowing that by the time I’m done I’ll hear an story about the tooth fairy coming during breakfast.

Only it didn’t quite work out way.

As expected, there the six year old had found that the tooth fairly had arrived and left a little more money than usual. Excitement abounded.

The World’s Greatest Dad knows how to make things right.

Then my son paused and asks, “Why did the tooth fairy leave me a receipt?”

“What receipt?” I say.

“A receipt from a restaurant,” he says. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a long, white piece of paper. “It was stuck between my two dollars.”

I’m speechless.

I turn to Marathon Girl for help. She gives me the You-Really-Screwed-Up Look--the one all husbands get at least twice a year from their wives. It’s followed by the Fix-it-or -Else look that I got a few minutes earlier.

In other words, she’s not going to help me. I’ve got to solve this on my own.

“Oh, she probably stopped and got some breakfast this morning on her way here,” I say as I take the receipt from his fingers and set it on the counter. “But hey, you got an extra dollar. And that’s really cool.”

The Art of Distraction is something the World’s Greatest Dad knows well. It usually works wonders on kids this age.

Not this time.

“I don’t understand why she would leave a receipt,” he says truly mystified.

“Well, maybe it was so you’d know why she was late.”

“Maybe,” he says, but I can tell deep down he’s not buying it.

I hurry and get them ready for school. He doesn’t say anything on the drive over but I can tell the wheels in his head are spinning. He likes to solve problems. That’s the kind of kid he is.

By lunch he'll probably put two and two together and figure it all out.

Meanwhile, I'll take the World’s Greatest Dad trophy down from my shelf. Maybe I’ll put it up next year if I can do enough to earn it back.

And, yes, I still plan on pulling all of my kids teeth when they get really loose but I’m leaving the rest of it to Marathon Girl.

They don’t call her the World’s Greatest Mom for nothing.

 

Two Inches of Snow

Apparently I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. This realization smacked me full in the face two weeks ago when the kids woke up and found two inches of fresh, white snow covering everything.

Normally two inches of snow isn’t something to get excited about—at least not in northern Utah. Yes, we have the greatest snow on earth but it’s usually we more that I want to deal with. But this winter snow storms have been few and far between and these two inches of snow was the biggest storm to date.

Being an adult, no snow is good news. No, wait, it’s great news. I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ll die in some horrific accident caused by snow packed roads on the way to or from work. And it makes running outside in the winter more enjoyable and inviting. I have no complaints about the mild winter.

But for kids, no snow is one of the worst things that can happen. Without snow there are no snowball fights to be had, snowmen to create, or sledding to be done. In short, winter becomes cold, dark, and pointless.

Thankfully my kids haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. They saw those two inches of snow and went crazy. They practically had their hats and coats on as they ran into our bedroom.

Kids: It snowed! Can we go sledding?

Me: [Getting out of bed and looking out the window] Looks like only two inches on the ground. Probably not enough for sledding

Kids: We can sled on two inches of snow!

Me: [Looking out the window again] But I can see spots of grass on hill.

Kids: But we haven’t gone sledding all year!

Me: That’s because there hasn’t been any snow this year.

Kids: Please!

Marathon Girl: Dad will take you all outside as soon as he gets his coat on. He needs to shovel the walk, anyway.

Me: [gives Marathon Girl the “Whose Side Are You On?” look]

Marathon Girl: [gives me the “What Are You Complaining About? This is the First Real Snowfall of the Year. Go Outside and Shovel.” look]

Me: Okay. Okay. Let me get read and you can start sledding.

Kids: Yay!!!!!

Fifteen minutes later I’m outside shoveling and the kids are running up the hill across the street, dragging their sleds behind them. I stopped shoveling long enough to watch them make the first few runs. Much to my surprise the two inches of snow seems to be just enough for sledding. The kids are screaming with delight each time they race down the hill.

I finish shoveling and head to the park to watch. Soon my kids are joined by other kids on our street and there’s a steady stream of sleds going up and down the hill. By the time they finish two hours later, there’s not a shred of snow left on the hill.

I take them inside to warm them up, dry them off, and give them some hot chocolate. Their clothes are soaked and they’re shivering with cold but have the biggest smiles on their faces I’ve ever seen. As they sip their hot chocolate they share sledding stories and how much fun the morning was.

Hopefully next time it snows, I won’t forget what it’s like to be a kid.

Boys and Basketball

My two oldest boys are on the same little league basketball team. Last Saturday was their first game. They both seemed to have a good time running around in what can only be described as organized chaos by all participants: lots of double dribbling, traveling, and getting confused on which basket they should be shooting at. It’s kind of like watching a Sacramento Kings game. This was my first little league anything I’ve attended as a parent and was curious as to how the other adults would behave. I’ve heard stories from neighbors about a crazy parent or two who yelled at their kid or do something else stupid or embarrassing at little league games. My few memories of participating in little league baseball as a kid is also full of parents (not mine, thankfully) and coaches who acted like three year olds.

Thankfully all the adults behaved like, well, adults. No one complained about any calls, how much playing time their kids got, or anything else that happened on the court. Everyone, even the kids, were good sports and the kids went home happy that they had a chance to play “real basketball” and get a treat from their coach after the game.

Hopefully the well behaved adult behavior will continue as the season goes on.

College Football = Family Time

As a kid my dad took me and my brother to Utah State football games. Some of my fondest memories as a 5-year-old were sitting about as high as one can sit in Romney Stadium watching the action on the field.

We moved soon after that and though I watched a lot of football with my dad, we didn’t attend any Utah State games for another 10 years or so. The only reason we went back was because Utah State offered family passes to their football games. Since they were cheap, I was able to talk my dad into getting one. I think the family only attended the first game. I believe my dad and I were the only ones that used the pass after that. Most of the time we watched the Aggies get their butts kicked by unheralded college teams like Pacific and Cal State Fullerton but we had a good time anyway. It was football, after all. It was hard not to have a good time.

Looking back, I realize the games we went to as a kid and a teenager were fun not because of the football but because I got to hang out with my dad. Now that I have young kids of my own who like watching games the occasional game on TV and playing football in the yard with me, I thought it would be fun to take them to some college games. The problem was finding a close and fun place to take them.

The popular college football tickets in this state are to Utah and BYU games. Having attended games in both stadiums I know from firsthand experience that neither are places I want to take young kids. The passion and intensity that can be found in both places is great if you’re in college or an adult who has his or her identity wrapped up in a football team, but there not so good if you’re a dad trying to spend a fun Saturday afternoon with the kids. (Utah State games aren’t much better.)

Last year I got word that my alma mater, Weber State, was offering family passes for its home football games. I bought one on a whim even though I wasn’t sure if my kids were going to enjoy it. At the very least I figured it would give me an excuse to go to a couple of games—even if I ended up going with just one or two of the kids. Besides, I figured the kids would have a good time since Weber State games are about as family friendly as a football game can get. On a good day the stadium is half full. That means if your kids get bored about halfway through the game, there’s plenty of empty bleachers to play on and tons of other bored kids to befriend. And the fans that do show up for games never have high expectations. If Weber State wins, everyone goes home happy and somewhat pleasantly surprised. If they lose, everyone shrugs their shoulders and goes home happy. It’s kind of the way sporting events should be.

Much to my delight, the kids loved going to the games. Granted they seemed to enjoy the kettle corn and root beer I bought them just as much, if not more, than the action on the field but the loading up the van on Saturday afternoons and making the 90 minute drive to Ogden become something they really looked forward to.

This year renewing the family pass was a no-brainer. The tickets arrived in the mail yesterday and the kids were thrilled when I showed them what was in the envelope. We marked the games on the calendar and the kids went to bed tonight chattering about kettle corn and upcoming football games. And to be honest, I’m just as excited about it as they are.

When they look back at these days I hope they realize the reason I take them to football games isn’t because of the action on the grid iron. It’s because I enjoy spending lots of uninterrupted time with them. Football games just happen to be a fun way to do just that.

Running: 11 Years and Counting

This morning I celebrated 11 years of running by going on a four mile run. My two oldest boys tagged along on their bikes—very happy to be outside so early. We had a great run and afterwards sat on the porch for a few minutes drinking ice cold Gatorade before we had to inside get ready for the day. As we sat on the porch I thought about how much I enjoy having my boys come with me on these runs. When I first started running, it was something I enjoyed doing by myself. Granted, I didn’t have any kids then but I relished the solitude. The exercise helped me clear my mind and focus on different things.  Then Marathon Girl came along and everything changed. Running with her was a great bonding experience for the two of us. She kept pushing me to run faster and keep up with her. I loved the challenge she provided but most of all I just liked being with her and sharing some time with her doing something she loves.

It’s kind of the same experience with my boys. There’s some father-son bonding that goes on during these runs. When they’re not racing far ahead of me and tell me to catch up (they get that from their mother) and I enjoy talking to them or just listen to them chatter on about whatever’s on their mind as we navigate the running paths in our neighborhood. It seems like I learn more about them during these morning runs then just about any other time. I enjoy this time so much that on the mornings I end up running alone, I find myself wishing they were riding along with me.

There’s a part of me that’s amazed that, after 11 years, my body is still able to run mile after mile every morning. I keep thinking that one day it’s going to say enough and force me to swim or bike instead. But I’m happy my body is still holding up because I can still do the occasional run Marathon Girl—even if it means taking all the kids with us. And I’m glad my boys like coming with me. I hope they know how much I enjoy having them with me.

I hope it’s something they want to do so long as my body can keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Widower Wednesday: Father’s Day

Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on the Dating a Widower concept covers. I’m talking comments through the end of the week so chime in if you have an opinion.

***

Sunday is Father’s Day. Though most recognize it as a day to honor the fathers in their lives, what many don’t know is that the mother of Father’s Day was one Sornora Smart Dodd, who organized the celebration in 1910 to honor her widower father.

Dodd's mother died in 1898 while giving birth, leaving her father, William Jackson Smart, to raise Dodd and her five younger brothers (including the newborn baby) on a remote farm near Spokane, Wash. While attending a Mother's Day sermon in 1909, Dodd decided that fathers deserve the same recognition.

That’s right, the modern Father’s Day movement was started to honor a widower who did his best to raise six children on his own.

Despite its’ roots in widowerhood, Father’s Day can be one of those days that many women are unsure what, if anything, should be done to recognize those widowed fathers that they’re dating.

Recently, I exchanged emails with a woman who wanted to recognize the herculean effort of a recent widower who was now raising a young child by himself but worried about overstepping her bounds. She tossed a few ideas my way and wanted to know if I thought any of them would work. I didn’t know what to tell her because I didn’t know the widower. Instead I advised her that she knew the widower better and me and to think of something that he would appreciate.

The key to successfully celebrating Father’s Day and just about any other special occasion is knowing that person. Every widower is different and each has his own things that he likes or doesn’t like to do. For some Father's Day might have been a big deal. For others little, if anything, might have been done to celebrate it. So some widowers might appreciate a small gift or a letter expressing your appreciation. Others may like to go out and catch a movie. Still others (like me) may want to spend a day at home with their kids and putting steaks on the grill. Some may not want to do anything.

If you don’t feel you know the widower well enough to guess, talk to him about it and ask what he’d like to do. See if he has any plans and, if he doesn’t, suggest some possible activities. Go with the flow and make sure you’re doing your best to make the day special for him the best you can. If you do that, odds are it will be a good day for both of you.

However you decide to recognize Father’s Day, at the very least be sure to let him know how much you appreciate how he’s handling everything on his plate. And you may also want to let him know that Father’s Day was started by someone who appreciated everything her widowed father did to raise her. That fact alone might make the day a little more special.

***

Note: Grace Golden Clayton is sometimes credited with organizing the first Father’s Day celebration a few years before Dodd. However, Dodd’s celebration was more modern and she also worked tirelessly to make it an officially recognized day. To the victor go the spoils.

Pause: A Generation Gap

A while back I was playing Monster with my kids (read: chasing them around the house) when one of my boys turned around and held his hand straight up, palms facing each other and yelled “Pause!”

“Pause?” I said. I’d never had any of my kids pause a game of Monster before.

“You know, like the Wii games,” my kid said. “You pause them when you need a break.” Then he held up his hands again and I realized he was making the pause symbol with them.

I nodded and went off chasing the other kids all the while wondering when Pause became a phrase kids used to stop real world games. Back when I was kid—one who grew up with video games—you called Time Out. Since then I’ve noticed that all kids (at least the ones who play with my kids) all of them use the word “Pause” instead of “Time Out” or some other phrase when playing real world games.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not complaining. I just find it fascinating how games my kids and other play in the virtual world influence the way they play games in the physical one. So far I haven’t seen them use the world “play” when they start up again after taking a break, but have noticed that they sometimes they turn their Wii games into games they mimic in the real world. That's Something I never did either. Back in my day video games on the Atari 2600 or other consoles weren't as interesting, in-depth, or fun as they are today. In the meantime I’m keeping my eyes open for more signs that the virtual world is bleeding over to the real one.

How to Play Real Football

This fall I’ve taken my kids to three college football games. One of the unintended consequences of this activity is that they think I don’t know a darn thing about how to play the game.

Take Saturday, for example. I take the kids to the park so we can play football. I divide everyone up into teams and hand the ball to my oldest kid. He gives me a quizzical look and hands the ball back to me.

“We can’t play yet,” he says.

“Why not?” I reply.

“Because we haven’t run out of the tunnel yet,” he says matter-of-factly.

Now it’s my turn to give him a quizzical look. “What are you talking about?”

“Before the game starts the players run out of the tunnel and you say what team you’re playing for.”

Now I get it. At the games I’ve taken them to, the teams run out of tunnels on the other side of the field. He wants to do the same thing.

“OK,” I say, “run out of the tunnel.

He and his brother run around the park and yell “Denver Broncos!” at the top of their lungs. They run back to me and I hand the ball to him.

“Hike the ball,” I said.

“We can’t Dad,” he said. “You haven’t run out of the tunnel yet.”

“I don’t need to—“

“All the teams run out of the tunnel,” he says. “Oh, and you’re the Indianapolis Colts.”

The Colts? I don’t want to be the Colts. I open my mouth to object but realize it could be worse. He could have asked me to be the Oakland Raiders.

So me and my daughter run around the field and let the world know we’re the Colts. When I get back to the ling of scrimmage the oldest hands me the ball.

“You start,” I tell him.

“No, Dad. You need to kick the ball to us.”

“What?”

“They kick the ball off to start the game,” he says as tosses me the ball.

The kickoff. How could I forget that?

I walk back to the goal line. My boys back up. I kick the ball over their heads. Laughing, they both run after it.  My oldest picks up the ball and I wrestle him to the ground. He jumps up and gets ready to hike the ball to his brother.

“We’re going to get a touchdown!” he says before hiking the ball.

Let the game begin.

Story Time

Story Time

Back in January I started reading Harry Potter to the oldest three every night. I wasn’t sure if it was something they’d enjoy. I didn’t know if they were old enough to understand what was going on or if a story about a young wizard would even hold their attention.

It’s worked out better than I expected. The two oldest boys understand the plot in the characters. Sometimes I have to explain words or things in the book they’re unfamiliar with but they usually lie in rapt attention as I read. Our lone girl is a bit too young, but looks forward to story time anyway because she can snuggle next to Mom or Dad. I’ve also learned that 10-12 pages a night is all the kids and my voice can handle and that explaining magical creatures and flying cars garners the most amazing, imaginative thoughts from my kids.

Having never read the Harry Potter books until now, I can see why they were so popular. They’re very imaginative and well written. Two thumbs up to JK Rowling.

I’m glad my kids are enjoying story time because whether I’m telling them something I made up or reading from Harry Potter, it’s one of my favorite times of the day

The Perfect Game

Football Cake

Tonight was one of the most fun Super Bowl parties I’ve ever had, and it had nothing to do with the Saints 31-17 victory over the hapless Colts. What made it so special was, for the first time, my two oldest boys took an active interest in goings on before and during the game.

My 5 year old helped me make and decorate a cake (pictured above) along with making some sauce for my hot wings. My 4 year old watched the first and fourth quarters with me while updating me on scoring changes along with making comments after every play. (Why did he drop the ball, Dad? Hey, he just scored a touchdown!) And they both ate more food than was good for them.

The result after all was said and done was two happy boys and a happy dad who are looking forward to more moments like this in the days and years to come.

My Super Bowl XLIV Prediction

Super Bowl XLIV Saints Colts

I'm really looking forward to this year’s Super Bowl party because of my oldest boys increasing interest in football. Ever since I took them to their first college football game last fall, they’ve become much more interested in watching it on TV. And though I think they’ll probably make it through the first quarter before going off to play with their cousins, I’m looking forward to watching at least part of it with them.

***

Yes, on paper the Saints/Colts matchup looks to be wildly entertaining, and I hope the game lives up to the hype. I’d love to watch a game with a dozen lead changes and last second touchdown to win the game.

But I don’t see it.

If anything I see a blowing coming—something we haven’t seen in the big game for many years. I’m rooting for the Saints to win because I have a soft place in my heart for the underdogs. Plus it’s nice to see them finally playing in the big game. But I think Peyton Manning and the gang have been here before. I think he’ll shred the Saints defense and have things nicely wrapped up by the third quarter.

My pick: Colts 44-17 but I’d rather watch a nail bitter—no matter who wins.

The Mixed Emotions of Parenthood

My boys are getting more fun as they age. Not that they weren’t fun last year or the year before that or at any other time in their life. It’s just that as they’ve become older, we’ve been able to do things and activities that were harder or impossible to do when they were younger. A couple months ago, they sat through and enjoyed a college football game. Now that it’s snowy and cold, they enjoy sledding. We have a good park for sledding across the street. The last three years every time I’ve attempted to take the two older boys (and Molly last year) sledding it’s gone something like this: they act excited about going when we leave the house, become terrified of sledding once we reach the park, won’t go down the hill unless they’re sitting on Dad’s lap, then complain about the cold after 10 minutes and want to go home.

Not this year. Sledding is (finally!) fun. I took the boys sledding with the usual trepidation that it was going to be a short trip. Instead, after one trip down the hill, they kept running to the top to go down again. The screamed with delight when I’d give them a push so they could go farther and faster. And when I was finally chilled to the bone an hour later, the boys didn’t want to leave. (I finally coaxed them away from the slopes with promises of big cups of hot chocolate.)

Back at home, the boys sat at the kitchen table, drank hot chocolate and told Marathon Girl about how much fun they had. As they talked, I realized that they aren’t little kids anymore. Kids, yes. Little kids, no. It seems like they’ve grown up overnight. They put their own dishes away after dinner. They don’t need me to help them get ready for bed. (Instead I supervise while getting the younger ones ready.) They can make their own beds and brush their teeth in the morning. And the oldest schools his dad on the Wii.

There’s a part of me that’s proud to watch them become more responsible and more independent. Another part of me, however, is a little sad that my two oldest boys aren’t the two small, cuddly boys that they’ve been since their birth. I know that part of being a parent is watching your kids grow up. As my kids age, new doors will open but others will close—sometimes forever.

I knew all this came with being a parent. However, no one told me all the mixed emotions I’d feel as it happens.

Imitation: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Our kids are napping and I’m taking advantage of a couple hours of quiet time to finish the last chapter in my novel. I feel eyes on me and look at the door to the bedroom and see my four-year-old son standing there. He always had a hard time napping on my days off. He’d much rather play with Dad then nap.

I tell him he needs to nap. He shakes his head and climbs up on the bed with me. He watches me write for a few minutes and asks if he can use Marathon Girl’s laptop.

“Sure,” I tell him. If he’s not going to nap, he might as well stay busy.

I get Marathon Girl’s laptop and start it up for him. He knows how to login to the kids account we have set up on there and start the games he likes to play so I go back to my writing.

A minute later I feel eyes on me again. I look at him then at the computer screen. He’s not playing games.

“Why aren’t you playing games?” I ask.

“I don’t want to play games,” he says.

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to write. I want to write like you.”

I smile and show him how to open Word. He begins “typing” then looks at me for approval.

“You’re writing really good,” I tell him.

He smiles and I return to my book.

A couple minutes later I feel a tug on my sleeve.

“Look,” he says.

I look at the screen. All by himself he’s figured out how to change the font, size, and color of the type. There’s a ton of green and red text of different sizes across the screen.

“Wow. That’s really good,” I tell him.

He smiles.

“What are you writing?” I ask

“A book,” he says.

“What’s it about?”

“I can’t tell you until it’s done.”

I give him a hug and we both go back to writing.

In another 30 minutes I’ll be done with my novel. Then I’ll tell my four-year-old what it’s about.

I hope he’ll tell me what his book’s about too.

Picture Perfect

As I parent, I know that one day one of my kids will leapfrog me when it comes to technology and understand how to work a computer, video game, or some device that hasn’t been invented yet better than their old man. However, I never thought that they’d be four years old when they did it.

Our oldest is fascinated by cameras. He loves taking pictures with my digital camera (gulp!) or my cell phone camera. And I like looking at the photographs he takes because it’s interesting to see how he views the world.

Our Kitchen Sink
(This is what our kitchen sink looks like from his perspective.)

Usually he’ll take pictures with my cell phone camera until the memory is full. Later I’ll go through the pictures, save the one or two I like, and delete the rest.

On Saturday I was going through the latest round of photos and noticed that they some of them had some special effects added to them.

Cat Special Effects

I called our oldest over and asked if he had taken that picture. With quite a bit of pride in his voice, he told me that he had done that.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

“Push seven,” he said.

I pushed seven. Nothing happened.

“It’s not working,” I said.

“You have to start at the beginning,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

Obviously frustrated with his old man’s inability to work a simple cell phone camera, our four-year-old took the camera from me and in a few moments was pushing the seven button and scrolling through a list of special effects.

“See?” he said.

“Wow. That’s amazing. How did you figure that out?”

“I just learned it,” he said.

He scrolled through the special effects and held the camera up so he could see me.

“Smile, Dad,” he said.

I smiled.

And he took a picture.

Abel's Smile