Oddly enough not five minutes ago I did a rather rousing adaptation of the “12 days of…” called “A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas” in book form, whilst putting Claire to bed.
What posts in June? Oh, thooooose thirty posts in June… again. It seems that for the fourth year in a row I’ve climbed aboard the daily blogging train and continued that monumental, multi-year writing effort to string a topic or idea across the vast reaches of years. Each day a new post on a new topic, but on the same blog-per-day topic as last year, creating another set of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be:
June 21st // Something You Want to Experience
It is the longest day, the day with the maximal quantifiable number of daylight hours of any given span between midnight and midnight in a calendar year. And as the last of those daylight moments sink into the horizon, I’m sitting on my parent’s couch, on an overnight trip out of town, waiting for my daughter to fall asleep in the next room.
It’s a dad-thing that it cracks my little shell a little more each time.
See, one is never quite sure if one is doing it right. If right is even possible. If there even is a so-called right. Any of it. Do I come of as confident in the rest of my writing, because… hey, some of that’s just for show.
All parents seem to get a bit of a raw deal in modern society, but dads –if only because I am one and that’s my perception– have an awkward role to play here in the early twenty-first.
We’re the butt of advertising jokes, the punch line usually ending in doofus father screwing something up that mom needs to fix.
We’re made out to be the defacto macho examples for boys, in a world that is every day questioning the very nature and value of modern masculinity and we’re the tough-guy fathers fending of the primal stew of those same boy’s emotions when they court our daughters, in a crazy world of sexting and what we’re so often told are escalating rates of things like teen porn addiction via the internet and the every-present-slip into societal-crumbling kid anarchy… or something.
We’re still the traditional bread-winners, but ones who now wear aprons when we come home each night, and through shared duties of mowing lawns, fix cars, sorting laundry, balancing household budgets and, yeah, putting kids to bed we are skipping through an uncharted minefield of swapped up gender roles and confusing power bargains with our spouses (who are likely just as confused as us.)
It’s a soul-crushing life, to not only have an unclear defined role in the world, but being forever in doubt if the role you’ve stepped in is even a role at all, or just a placeholder for something else.
I was on a field trip with the school yesterday. I know other dads volunteer for these sorts of things, but as for yesterday I was –literally, among nine other parent and teacher chaperones– the only guy. The lone papa. The solo dad among moms. And then, just as the icing on the cake, one of the moms actually, as she re-introduced herself to me (we’d met previously,) said: “You’re Claire’s mom, right?”
“Well… her dad, actually, but…”
“Oh… sorry! Yeah, sorry… I meant dad.” I know she meant nothing by it, of course, but brain-fart or not, it just helped to emphasize yet another moment of, you know the tune: one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other…
We tell each other to shut up about it and just listen.
I’m not looking for pity or to cast aspersions on these struggling roles. I know this is a tricky topic. I know, because I’ve been reading about it and I chose the word “minefield” earlier for a reason: there are real schisms in the world about the growing struggles between our two (randomly assigned) genders. There are men who are oh-so-very vocal about how they are feeling, perhaps overly entitled yet beaten down by the modern feminist movements pushing against the status quo and not making clear where the mutual benefits (and they exist) lay. Women are rightly feeling like for all the momentum towards equity, there is that last hill to climb that will be perhaps more difficult to reach than any of the past million steps, and for all that change there are still fundamentally broken interactions between men and women. We tell each other to shut up about it and just listen. And everyone goes and sticks their heads back in the sand and…
And some of us do listen.
And sometimes there is just a guy, not quite sure what he’s doing, sharing the job of raising a little girl into a woman in this crazy world… and that guy, that dad, would more often than not like to experience a little more confidence about the whole thing. Or would that even help?
A reloaded post is a short-and-sweet collection of the (sometimes-interlinked) randomness from my recent life, universe and everything else in between. They would be more detailed but they tend to be events lacking in either (a) details or (b) depth; Or lacking in the time to more fully record them. Enjoy.
It’s the last day of February. This year is already one-sixth over, and I’m still trying to remember to replace my 2s with 3s.
Maybe you care. Maybe you don’t. The problem with leaving all our gadgets at home whilst on vacation — or so I know realize — is that the motivation to write about and re-hash your adventures dwindles on an inverse mathemetical curve with the passage of time following said vacation. On a few dedicated mornings on-ship while the girls slept-in, I wandered down to the cafe and drank my coffee with a notebook (yes, a real paper one) and a pen in hand, scribbling little snippets of memory for later reference for just this task: writing some redux articles upon my return was the ultimate goal. Two weeks home and I’ve not breached that effort very well, I admit. Maybe you’ll read them. Maybe you won’t. But I am definitely planning on writing them. Soon.
And Then There Was Being Sick
I could blame a number of factors beyond my own lack of focus, but if I had to pick a major culprit in the delay it would be the fact that we all, in turn, came down with some form of illness in the two weeks following the boat ride. I’ll spare details, but needless to say our levels of engagement on the ‘recalling-our-vacation’ front have been suffering as a result.
Oh, Briar Where Art Thou
My curling-obsessed wife finds herself with the day off work today and instead venturing down to the local hockey-arena soon-to-be-converted competition-curling-rink. The ultimate in Canadian men’s curling, the Briar, begins this weekend, live from Edmonton and Karin wrangled a pretty sweet volunteering gig (thanks to the connections of your’s truly) which starts today with a day of setup and grunt work. So, while the rest of us get ready for work, she’s put on her grubs and is off to run wires and set up comptuer systems or phone systems or — well, I’m not entirely sure to tell you the truth. Either way, she’s got some technical role supporting a major curling tourney and is happy a as lark this weekend.
The Talk, Sort Of
It happened. Sort of. Just sort of, though. I was putting Claire to be last night and she gets this very serious expression on her face, and then asks me: “Dad, how you you stop babies from being born?”
“Stop them?” I ask. “What do you mean? Why do you want to stop them?”
“No. How do you decide to have a baby or not have a baby?”
“Uhhhh.” I stutter. “Do you mean where do babies come from?” I hesitate a bit then ask, finally. I mean it was a kind-of, sort-of backwards way of asking the question, but it was what she was getting at right?
“Yeah.” She adjusts her request. “How do you make babies?”
So… we had the talk. Version One. Rated G, for five year olds.
Another installment from my third week of lists, a clinging-to-the-trees, back-to-school-special, dreading-impending-winter edition all about video games, families, and balancing your work, life and play to the max: the sun setting a little earlier each day, the ever-cooler-evenings all making for perfect gaming weather, tucked into an agoraphobic corner in your basement and plugged into some multi-player epic, awesome, pixelated fun.
One caveat: For us gaming geeks who have powered-up over the stereotypes of our creed, built into our digital lives the welcoming embrace of spouses, children, pets, and other responsibilities, there remains the common sense situation of putting life and family first. No kidding, right? But how… exactly?
6 Gear-Up-For-Winter Tips for Gamers with Families
Being a family guy that tries not bear any real word resemblance to its television namesake requires a bit of planning. Oops… Did I say a bit?
[ 1 ] Plan Ahead: No… Waaaay Ahead
…gaming as an adult is not only more acceptable to our peers, but actually a form of social interaction…
Spontaneous moments for epic gaming can still happen, but any responsible gamer dad is going to tell you that those moments get further and farther between as life progresses. We, the thirty-somethings of the twenty-first century are cutting new paths here too, remember. We are from a generation that has not only been among the first to have access to toys of such awesome digital immersion, but we are the first to forge through a new kind of real-life versus artificial-life balance that our ancestors didn’t have to deal with. My parents did not need to plan out time for gaming, and why is that? Gaming when you were an adult was a thing you did after a dinner party with grown-ups, playing checkers or whatever. Every other type of gaming was for kids. But now we live in this universe where gaming as an adult is not only more acceptable to our peers, but actually a form of social interaction: I don’t go to the bar with my friends as often as I should, but we do meet up online to kill virtual zombies on a fairly regular basis. Guys night is not about sneaking out to the pub — though I wouldn’t mind a few more of those too — but instead scheduling in some quiet time in the basement basking in the glow of my dual LCDs.
Abandoning your spouse to the solitude of an evening alone could be one of those epic fails that sends you to the doghouse, to be sure. But it doesn’t have to be: hand-in-hand with plenty of forewarning goes the general rule of ensuring you don’t compromise the only entertainment venue in the house… (and if you do: plan B? Or maybe you’re just on your there own, bud. Good luck!) While she might be first in line to contest my claims in the comments below, Monday night game nights while super-awesome game time for me are just as much a bonus for my wife. She gets full control over the television, Netflix, and the laptop (which is pretty much useless for gaming.) I hobble downstairs to plug in, and she usually waves a casual “see you later” while snapping up the remotes and booting up some girly-tee-vee. Compromise? Mutual respect? It all plays a role here.
[ 3 ] Get a Headset
…because you’re in mixed company, that’s why. The kids in bed trying to sleep is just one obvious reason, and I don’t think I need to list many more. You get the idea.
[ 4 ] Remember to Dust Off the Board Games, Too
Gamers, no matter who you are, should diversify once-in-a-while, too. I don’t care if you are a strict digit-arian, going analog on occasion is good for your sensibilities: this goes doubly so for you if you (a) have kids, or (b) are into MMORPGs… though the latter is a subject of a completely different article that I have yet to write. Board games may not exercise your keyboard trigger fingers, but they remind you of the broader origins of the play that has a lineage reaching into the modern digital counterparts. I won’t be so lame as to tell you that board games are better for kids, either: I’d say the research is probably still out on that one. But as much fun as I have playing Minecraft with my daughter, I think we have a little more fun plodding through a game of Kid’s Carcassonne. We get to interact, look each other in the eyes, laugh, learn, and hang out — all while playing a cool game. And in the heart of a cold winter, that is sure a lot better than just watching yet another Disney movie marathon. Make sure you have a few good family board game titles in reserve along with your epic Steam collection this season.
Some of the same guys who I play online with routinely make a more personal appearance at a live-action gaming party. I need to host more of these. I really do. And sure, this might be a micro-LAN party in someone’s basement, but as a collective of gaming fathers this has more often than not been a round-table, anything goes, board gaming extravaganza with food and drinks and kids running everywhere, the older tots popping in to investigate the multi-piece epic play of their parents. Getting together with friends to play games doesn’t need to be either (a) reserved for the post-dinner aperitif-hour or (b) a secondary outcome: build a party, gathering, or general all-round fun evening around some gaming.
[ 6 ] Stick to Your Bedtime
And ultimately, being a responsible gamer dad is really all about being serious about time limits. Those killer robots aren’t going anywhere. You still need to get up for work in the morning and drag your sorry self to the office. Say good night, pack it up, and get to bed.
All these screenshots were captured during the author’s personal game-play and are probably copyright by the folks who made the game: have respect and don’t steal or post without attribution. Know any other ways you can show some gaming respect? Comment below and share the secrets!
As a holiday gift, I bought The Girl a light-up replica of the moon. It now hangs from a small nail on her bedroom wall. Its diameter is roughly thirty centimeters of textured, semi-translucent plastic and via a variety of functions on the included remote control can be selectively backlit to replicate eight phases of lunar illumination. Clicking her moon into just the right phase has become an indespensible part of our evening bedtime routine, fitting naturally and somewhere between the second of two storybook recitals and the charging-with-a-flashlight of the glow-in-the-dark stars clinging to her ceiling.
Tonight we are chatting under a waning crecent and eerie, green luminescence of five-pointed stickies.
“Can we play our question game again, Daddy?” She asks, tucked tightly into bed, throttling the helpless plush doll — her inseparable Lucy — under the crook of her arm.
“Do you have some questions ready?” I ask. I’m tracing my fingers lightly across her forehead to brush the hair from her eyes. “Good questions?”
One could hardly call it creative brilliance in the art of game design, but as far as parenting tactics it has been nothing short of a sleeper hit. The Girl loves it despite — or perhaps because — that the rules are so ridiculously simple: she can ask me three questions, no more and no less, about absolutely any thought, idea or curiosity that happens to be cluttering her little mind — and I will answer her as honestly and thoroughly as I my own cluttered mind can muster. That’s it. That’s our game.
So says the folks at Shaw: our signal is weak. And thus our Internetz be broke. Indeterminately. For a while, apparently. And I, with so little else to say this evening, am blogging via my droid and a(n occasionally) more reliable 3G connection.
I should read a book.
I should do something creative.
I should turn my brain off and watch a movie.
I should go for a run.
I should clean the bathrooms, do the dishes, or organize my office.
I should go to bed early.
I should put on some quiet music and just listen.
I should make cookies.
I should play a board game with my wife.
But, I’m probably going to obsess over my broken internet connection instead, fiddling with the digital cranks and levers inside my modem, until I realize it’s past my bedtime. How silly am I?
For the entire month of June I’m planning on writing a series of blog-a-day posts based on a set series of open-ended questions to myself. This is one of those posts.
June 8th // Something You Have Fixed
I was sitting here trying to think of something to write for today’s blog-a-day topic, filling time writing about the video games I was playing which was itself to fill time trying to think of something to write, thinking about how I should try and relate today’s post to something house-ish because today is the sixth anniversary of our move in date, six years from the date we took possession of this little house, and surely I’ve fixed something worth blogging about recently…
I was sitting here trying to think, and Claire who had been in bed for about half an hour (restless as normal) stumbled out and asked me for a tissue.
Now there is only one reason she ever asks for a tissue. It is on those less-and-less rare occasions when she has been quietly tucked away in a corner or in bed picking her nose and she has caused it to bleed. Yeah, kids do that. I’m kinda used to it. I’m kinda used to the snot. I’m kinda used to the gross. Whatever.
So, of course, me alone — because Karin is off at dance rehearsal — is sitting here and Claire tromps out of her bed, face smeared red with nose-bleed blood, and the tears of realization starting to well behind eyes sinking ever closer and deeper into kiddie fear and frustrations. And I — sitting here on the couch with a laptop computer on my knee — realize I need to react, quickly, now, jumping to action to avoid a full size gusher, because every other time this has happened it’s not only the blood that gets everywhere but the wailing, screaming tears that follow quickly behind.
We move quickly to the bathroom (for the light, the sink, and the ease of later cleanup — but definitely not for the mirror that only threatens to amplify the aforementioned tear-fest.) I tell her to look at me. Just look. Not at the mirror. At me. And I dab her nose, pinching the flow. I swab the blood and just keep telling her to look in my eyes. I just keep repeating that, locking her trembling stare with mine, as a worked quickly to stop the red gusher on her face. I ask her questions. I distract her. And slowly, slowly, slowly… the blood stops. Slowly.
And then we do the bedtime thing again. Wash her face. Tuck her in. Shout assurances from down the dark hallway. Until… now, all is quiet.
A likely familiar tune, but bedtime at our house is borderline ritualism: Bath. Brush teeth. Story. Shine the flashlight on the ceiling to make the the glow stars light. Song. Some idle talking about the day past. At least three drinks of water. And a small peppering of parental nudges to “get back into bed!”
Ritualism, and in that order.
Lately, and this evening being no exception, we’ve been adding the list. I’ve been hearing the faint voice summoning me from down the hall, a tired little cry beckoning and calling: “Daddy. You forgot to spray for monsters.”
Ah, imagination. How cruel a mistress you be. So many wonders to share, yet the taint of ill-begotten fears hangs upon you. Around what corners, and in what shadows, do your plots hide. A rich jungle of ideas strung together with creativity and ingenuity, in the daylight hours an explorers paradise yet when night falls… oh, right.
There is little rationality to be had at bedtime when monsters may lurk behind the door. I ask. I hope. I prod the rational mind hiding behind the near-sleep eyes of The Girl, fostering the unreality a little deeper in hopes that logic prevails. Alas, but there is nothing to be had of such ploys. Monsters are seemingly beyond logic, fearless of inconsistencies in their very existence, but subject to fatality at the slightest whiff of Dad’s Famous Monster Spray.
Perhaps tomorrow night logic will prevail. Or perhaps not.
For those who are interested, I just published a new episode of my online web-novel, The Data Yodeler. I write two new episodes every week, and appreciate your insight and support as I work my way through this massive, multi-year project.
Below is an excerpt from Episode 33 / Crush
I want to claim that the last two weeks had been eventful. But as was usual with The Data Yodeler Project, that was a relative term. In fact things had been exceptionally — relatively — quiet.
We continued to generate content. We continued to acquire audience. We continued to pound away submitting links to aggregators. We wrote. We recorded. We podcast. We captured images of gum hung from landmarks around the city, ensuring that every installation was cataloged in detail on the blog. We chased down media outlets telling them the story of the project. We peppered Cheeky with updates of our statistics multiple times per day. We played. We argued. We ate. We wrote some more. And we spun the narrative of my story, of Russ, to a ever-more enthusiastic collection of readers.
Of course there had been fallout from the copy artists. But we handled it. And we quickly learned there really is no such thing as bad publicity.
Check out the full site at fiction.datayodeler.com. By the way… this notice is an automatically generated post that will repeat for every new episode published. Share and enjoy!
Yesterday was dim: I didn’t feel like perching the keyboard any more than was necessary. That, and I saw a mindclicker of a movie, Resident Evil, of which you will probably be able to read the review if they decide to publish it. The short: don’t waste your time.
Now it is snowing again: the logic of it all… yesterday I was blading around in the sun – in shorts – and feeling great. Twenty-four later I’m stranded at work with a white wonderland out my window. I can’t even see the buildings that are only a block away. It’s sad. I’m sad. And I need to have more sleep. These weekends are kicker, especially when you sit on the phone discussing “possibilities” until bedtime. Maybe I’ll go for a walk in the snow at lunch.