The Finer Things About Being Unrefined


photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc
photo credit: JD Hancock via photopin cc

Being a dad of girls is like being left-handed in a right-handed world.

As a lefty and a dad, I know. Desks, notebooks, and putt-putt clubs aren’t made for you. You adjust.

I’m 43. It’s Richard Petty’s old racing number, and the reason there are always 43 cars in a NASCAR race. The London Telegraph says it’s the age men finally mature. That’s 11 years after women do, according to this Brit rag.

Twitter is loaded with examples to the contrary.

Girl dadding. I write about it a lot because I’ve lived it from the day I first held my first meatloaf-sized amalgamation of half my genes and said goodbye to my heart forever. I’ll get it back in 87 years or so.

photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc
photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc

What can a dad can teach a girl, let alone three? I know this:

The ticker takes a beating when he worries his daughter will get trampled in an egg hunt.

It swings hard the other way when he hopes she’ll show the boys mercy on the soccer field.

The soul takes a beating when he sees teen boys and creepy grown men leer at his teenager.

It swings hard when he sees her put a boy on his back for crowding her in a match.

The mind takes a beating if she’s sick, or hurt, and there’s nothing he can do.

It swings hard when she masters a spiral or gawks at a black 1965 Pontiac GTO.

Rhere’s a fine line between refined and unrefined. A blurry one.

Girl dadding is a mess of nail polish bottles in my bathroom. It’s hair in my sink and foot injuries from 17 different hair accessories I’ve stepped on in the night.

With these three, there’s also a beautiful, unpolished shell not even I could have predicted.

My savages

belchThere are no apologies for public belches. Or hard fouls. Or harsh words. As parents, we’ve wondered how this might impact their ability attract a spouse. Will boys be drawn to these traits? Boy me would have swooned over girls like these.

Grace chooses River Monsters over Pretty Little Liars. Marie would rather wrestle a river monster, in a river, than wear a dress.

Elise can’t resist talking fantasy football when she should study math.

An attempt to refine

When a dad sings “Across the Universe” and “Dock of the Bay” at bedtime, questions follow. “What are pools of sorrow and waves of joy?” and “Why does Otis Redding whistle all the way to the end of that song on the radio?”

Those are proud moments.

You don’t see that in TV dads. You don’t see it when you see a dad pick his kids up for his weekend. Dad time is hot wings, yes, but it’s also museums.

Sure, he’s a softie for extra snacks, but also for flashcards for a big test, or rehearsal of lines for a kid’s part in The Jungle Book.

Congeniality is kind of overrated.

One moment, the girls and I are talking space exploration in the car, NPR on the radio and everything. In an instant, the mood took a turn:

photo credit: enjosmith via photopin cc
photo credit: enjosmith via photopin cc

Elise: “oo! Oo! Look! Vultures! They’re eating something!”

Grace: “Sweet!” *presses face to window* “Let’s turn back around and throw stuff at them!”

Maybe it’s just those two.

And their dad.

Marie chose crepes for her birthday breakfast. Not sausage biscuits, not Froot Loops. Not even pizza and pop rocks. So civilized.

I chilled the batter and twirled it around in a pan and flipped the thin frenchy breakfast things for the birthday girl.

I have on Pandora while I cook, which served up Boz Skaggs’ “Low Down,” live version. Any 40-something dad feels slick and badass when this plays.

“This is a badass song,” I muttered as I served up a crepe loaded with cream cheese and chocolate chips.

Grace stood up, puffed out her chest, and, arms back, head lifted to the heavens, ripped out a frenchy breakfast burp.

“THAT is a badass burp!” she exclaimed.

Intellect, culture, and knowledge be damned.

It seems there’s a fine line between refined and unrefined.

A blurry one.

unrefined quote

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72 Replies to “The Finer Things About Being Unrefined”

  1. There is something awesome about a dad and his girls. You just can’t beat it!! Sounds like you are doing a fabulous job, or just the best you can, which is usually the same thing!

    1. Thanks Emily. I do love being a dad of girls. The best I can is all I can do – and I’m awfully proud when i see them in their element, which is a little of the refined, and a little of the definitely unrefined!

  2. I have so much love for you Eli! Glad this chaos inspired such a beautiful post! Your girls sound wonderful and they’re gorgeous! I bet my 3 and your 3 would have a blast burping and wrestling together! 😀

    1. I do for you too Rachael! I keep thinking of the photo of your son on the toy car ON the furniture. Every selfie those girls takes is goofy, which I will take any day over them trying to look sexy.

      Imagine our kids in the same Chuck E. Cheese. Woah.

  3. That is brilliant, funny and totally moving. My Dad taught me to use a plane (not the flying sort), a saw, hammer and nails to build a toy boat. Secret codes and invisible writing 🙂

    1. Thanks so much Lyn. I love that your dad saw the value in those skills. A good friend said her dad taught her to change a tire as part of learning to drive. Brilliant, i say.

      I remember the secret codes and invisible writing! Those things are what being a dad is all about.

  4. you are more than equipped, eli. you are model of parenthood and all that is right about it, including the burps, the tears, the hugs, the wisdom and the laughs. your girls are so lucky –

    1. Thanks Daniella! I’ll take them one at a time. I’m so glad you enjoyed this. I felt that daddy/daughter bond even before my first was born … and in the minutes after her birth, I was able to sooth her cries by just my voice. She knew me already. I hope to have some of that magic still.

  5. First of all, happy early birthday! I know so many people celebrating birthdays tomorrow, and it would have been my dad’s 86th. Will you choose creeps or sausage biscuits for your birthday breakfast?

    As a lefty, and a mom of two sons, I can relate to your musings. Thanks for the morning smile!

    1. Thanks Deb! I think it’s also Owen Wilson’s and Big Papi’s birthday. I’m more honored to share it with you father, though.

      I think I’ll probably go with scrambled-egg burritos for my birthday. If I have tortillas! I usually take my birthday off, but I’m going to work it this year.

      We lefties have it tough, don’t we? I’m convinced righties would never survive in a lefty world. We can adjust, though.

  6. The Hub is currently teaching Kidzilla the finer points of the game of Heroscape and has introduced her to Star Wars, bizarre video games I do not understand that have a lot to do with robots and logic, and they crack up together at the Monty Python SPAM sketch and videos of cats doing stupid things. I’m certain that her belching habits come directly from him. He also sits in on every dress shopping excursion and comes home with all manner of pink things just because she loves pink. He raises one eyebrow suspiciously when she talks about the boys in her class and they’re only six! I can’t even think what will happen to this man when she actually sprouts a hormone or two or asks for the keys to the car. They straddle that line of refined/unrefined just beautifully together. And I’m sending him this post to read!

    1. I can relate to the Hub’s approach. My girls are much more dramatic belchers than I am. I love that he gets into what she’s into, too. I’d never have watched Doctor Who if Elise hadn’t introduced me to it.

      You cannot start too early with the suspicious eyebrow. Boys. I don’t have a gun or military record, but just let them try and match wits with me. Sit down, son.

      Thanks for the love, Lisa.

      1. Reminds me of that scene in Mr. Mom where the boss comes to the door and Michael Keaton (a very young Michael Keaton at that) answers with a roaring chainsaw. Granted, it wasn’t about daughters, but the effect would be similar!
        I am certain that by introducing her to these things he is systematically trying to ensure that the girl never has a date. Either that or she’ll end up with a guy just like her Dad…and that would be just fine by me.

  7. Happy Birthday (early) Eli!
    We need more TV dads like you. Actually, just more girl-daddies like you. I married one and I pray that my son marries the daughter of a daddy like you–see how it’s all related?
    You are full of so much warmth and love for those girls–even on their worst days they will know you are in their corner and love them more than life. You rock, daddio!

    1. Thanks Michelle!

      The not-completely-clueless TV dad went out with Bill Cosby. Being a girl daddy is tough stuff. But it’s important. I hope your son finds that girl, too.

      Sometimes, I’ll write a post like this and think, “did you already write this one?” I suppose I kind of have. But it feels different every time, too.

      1. And relevant every time, too.
        Even if you had written something similar, the message will always stand as well as reach new people. It’s been percolating in my head all morning 🙂

  8. You had a post last week that got me thinking what I can see in M that may be unique, even slightly, from him being raised by a single mother and a very long-distance father. I guess that isn’t an uncommon situation now, so maybe he really is “normal”.

    I think raising a boy has helped me loosen up and have more fun with life. I introduced him to Star Wars, he got me into comics and Deadpool. He encourages my (well, our, but mine until he decides to move back) Lego habit, I got him reading George R. R. Martin before “Game of Thrones” was a TV show. Not to a say a girl wouldn’t have had the same interests, or that another boy would; I am just lucky to have a kid that shares a lot of common interests while still being himself.

    1. What we do (and don’t do) shapes our kids, all the time, doesn’t it? Normal is far less relevant as ‘true’ is – I believe a child can become their true selves on their own.

      We as parents can just foster that journey, add to it, and learn from it too.

      As they get older, it’s a give and take, isn’t it? Elise asked me long ago for songs I liked that she should add to her playlist. I loved that. We give each other so much.

      Your influence on your son is something you might be able to see in moments now, but will stay with him his entire life.

  9. First, Happy DAY as we say at our house. Second I do a happy dance every time Abby says boys are gross so I totally get you there. On the upside the boys in her class say she’s the best because she is ‘no drama’ like the other tween girls.

  10. Here’s a piece of boy momming: C needed a new winter jacket, and we went to the mall. On our way I asked about his requirements.
    It needs to be orange and have a zipper, no snap buttons, and a warm lining.
    Sounds good to me. We walk into H&M. There it is: orange, cute fake fur hoodie bordure.
    He stares at me and shakes his head.
    “C’mon, try it on, it’s perfect!”
    He stretches out his arms = ref signal for NO GOAL.
    Geez. We are leaving. No arguing with that, right?
    Happy Birthday, Marie – and E! 22 more minutes, and it’s your bday in Switzerland 🙂

      1. ESPECIALLY no replay, more like “leave the ice and take a shower, Mom” haha!
        I think it was the fake fur.
        Orange is his new favorite color, now that he is a first grader. In Kindergarten it was red. I know you were hoping for the Broncos 😉

  11. 43 – what a great age!!! Happy birthday a tiny bit early to one of the very best girl dads I know!!! Sad that I know some who think they can’t do stuff with their kids because they are girls – missing out in a huge way aren’t they?!

    1. You’re rocking it though, Kim! Thanks. Those dads really are missing out … and i know it’s the culture and how we’re raised, and it just might take another generation or two for the world to see a girl can do anything.

      My girls were shocked a woman has never been president.

  12. You may wonder about my post, but last night while writing in my notebook all kinds of thread spool details, I did not have a computer. I wrote my post, carefully after work, then circle back to check on other’s posts. Here you are with a grand quote that matches my ‘threads’ post. Wonderful since we are ‘great minds thinking alike!” At 43, you are doing a fine job in raising your 3 daughters, along with adjusting to their own way of thinking, too.
    Happy Birthday, if it is not too late to say it, Eli! Many more wonderful years and best wishes sent your way!
    You could be my son, if I had had you as a 16 year old. I turned 59 on 11/15. Smiles, Robin

    1. Aren’t you glad your notebook was there, Robin? What you came up with was awesome. And the quote does tie in, doesn’t it?

      It’s a balance of influence and interaction when it comes to being a dad. I learn as much as I teach sometimes.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes, too. I’m hoping for 43 more. You’re just a bit ahead of me. I’m catching up.

  13. As the mom of three girls, I love this! My girls are all so unique and different from each other – and so different from the “girly”girls I imagined they would be. I love to watch hem with my husband, too. I know he never pictured himself as a girl dad, but he’s a great one & I’m sure you are, too!

    1. You can relate, right Lisa? I think the contrast is less defined now for kids. It was the rare girl who climbed trees and played baseball – and now, a girl does these things, almost automatically, but can still do things we might closer associate with being female.

      Oh, being a girl dad rocks. I’m in awe of all my girls can do, and be.

  14. While we have 2 little boys, I grew up with sisters. Yeah, we had lots of fun, much to my mom’s horror. Dad and the brothers loved it. 🙂

    (oh, and I found a husband, so don’t give up on them yet!)

    1. I think when two or more sisters are gathered together, their inner boy comes out. And not all of it is mom-friendly! It can also make a dad proud.

      Husbands like yours are the lucky ones, Kim.

  15. My children got scolded at a wedding dress shop for being too noisy. I cut the saleswoman a look so hard, but my sister wisely looked at her and said, “We’re raising them just the same as boys. Anything else?” And the woman shrugged and walked off. Probably pissed, but whatever. You do your thing Coach! Oh, and super happy birthday to you!

    1. If a joint is too stuffy for my kids, it’s too stuffy for my money. Love your sister’s quick reaction! I got a look from a lady in traffic when she realized my girls and I were all singing “Highway to Hell” at a red light.

      I will do my thing. I’ll keep on keeping on, sister.

      Seeing you here is a pretty decent birthday present, Melissa!

  16. Oh funny! I just discovered Rachel’s blog yesterday. I enjoyed it.
    I just love having once of each and reading about boy or girl parenting only. It’s all winning combos, isn’t it?
    My daughter doesn’t burp and fart as much as she jokes about such things, but I’m hoping she will in time.
    Des too.
    Also, Happy Birthday! If you’d give me your work address, cookies would make their way down.

    1. Girl can write, can’t she? It is all winning combos, as you in your town know, also, there are many combos. Two dads and two girls, or two moms and two sons, or any which combination of anything you can imagine.

      Scarlet needs only nourishment, encouragement, and a good role model to do those things, T-Bow. Keep on keeping on.

      Really … cookies? I’d be responsible with them. I promise.

  17. my youngest is the best burper and farter in the house. I have no idea. I am responsible for finding the tiaras and princess slippers and painting toes: clearly there’s been other things going on while my back was turned.
    but, it’s beautiful chaos isn’t it?

    1. There’s a crown for that distinction, right? That talent isn’t inherited? The training is stealth, and often the toe-painting is just a smoke screen for them to learn other things.

      It is a beautiful chaos. Even when they wrestle in church. (This happened. In the teen years).

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