We got to play at halftime of a Colorado State football game in Ft. Collins. It was Band Day, and they played the University of New Mexico. I played baritone sax. I was first chair, I might add. The cheerleaders came with us.
Stick with me … this will tie together eventually.
Her name was Kaylie. (It was actually Shawna, but I don’t want to use her real name.) She was dreamy. Silky, curly brown hair, hazel eyes, braces. Sigh. The universe had a little fun that day and put Shawna – I mean, Kaylie – next to me on the bus.
Kids are busy, though. There are church camps and chicken fajitas with friends in restaurants way past the dinner rush. There’s a whole day spent with a friend from school, laying out at the pool and baking chocolate chip cookies.
Kids my kids’ age don’t have time to pretend anymore.
So I will. My friends at Uncommon Goods have the coolest stuff you could possibly get your dad (outside of one of those sweet Rockies jerseys.) Uncommon Goods has some uncommon traits going for them as a company, too, in an effort for sustainability.
Courtney of Baking in my Bathing Suit suggested I extend an invitation to the grown-up world for Go Ask Daddy. A handful of readers submitted questions, so there was enough to set the girls’ questions back on the shelf for today.
I covered racing for the Hickory (N.C.) Daily Record. It was my second job out of college. A racing writer at a tiny paper doesn’t make enough to pay country club dues. Hell, it barely pays enough to buy a club sandwich. In the country.
“What if Jeeps cost a nickel?” I asked my college friend, Bobby Keith – while we both were still in college. “I’d buy many Jeeps,” he answered. “What if packs of gum were $5,000?” I followed with. “Then I wouldn’t chew any gu – where the hell do you come up with this??” he asked.
Fair enough question.
The six words question for March isn’t asinine – but it is unusual. It comes from a wonderful source of thought-provoking questions from #Q4KIDZ. Grace and I have both contributed to the question pot, which spits one out daily for you and your kids.
I used to fill the Wednesday gaps when I didn’t have a guest post lined up with a random assortment of photos from my dilapidated Android phone.
Sometimes, they’d include a shot of my dilapidated car, which is embroiled in a long-haul challenge with my dilapidated phone to see who can last the longest. They probably have wagered also on whether they can outlast me, too.
We’re all still alive and (mostly) kicking, and I have lots of great guest posts and #GirlsRock interviews to get me through weeks and weeks of blogging.
I miss the photos, though. I’ll bring them back, at the first of every month. I’m also involved in the 12 Month Mindful Challenge. It’s Jen Schwartz’s creation, on the Elephant Journal. March is Meat-free. (eek!)
Who hasn’t thought this? In those moments we’re out of gas, out of time or out of toilet paper (or all three). At times when we follow our favorite adorable pro golfer just to see she has three names now, just like those old-school 80s Olympic sprinters.
I like being me, though.
So much so that I would hate to not be me, to miss out on late-night ginger snaps and Sunlounger and Cher Lloyd on Pandora. On coaching my girls, raising my kids or writing my blog. Did I mention ginger snaps?
The younger the kid, the rawer (is that a word?) the call-out. I’ve navigated three daughters through the unfiltered years, without many stings. There was that day on the Barbie doll aisle with one daughter, who, noting Mattel’s plastic diversity, asked, “why would I want a black Barbie, dad?”
I sailed through that one with honesty, not damage control.
“I think little girls like to play with dolls, no matter what,” I explained. “But sometimes, we want toys that look like us. These dolls look like different people.” And it was true. I remember complaining that there were no Mexican kids on Peanuts.
When I started this blog years ago, I thought it would be the voice of dudes everywhere.
Boy, was I wrong.
Roughly 92% of my followers are women. Roughly the same percentage of male bloggers write like women. I feel like I write for women. Not like. Big difference. I won’t say things like squee! or totes adorbs or “said no one ever.” I think those aren’t manly terms.
My No. 1 fan in terms of comment engagement happens to be a bloke.
True, I can’t take my kids to the airport to watch planes take off anymore. Sept. 11 took care of that.
But they’ve seen some great things in their lifetimes.
Even though their parents vote Republican, the significance of our first minority president isn’t lost on the girls. Gay marriage is on the table, and reality in some places. Hardly anyone gets chickenpox anymore. And my girls have even lived in the age of southern NHL teams winning the Stanley Cup, for Rod Brind’Amour’s sake.
Grace tiptoed behind me into the kitchen to ask her question.
She knows I love her, because I always hold out six plain wings for her 8-year-old taste buds when I make them spicy for her sisters and I kiss her face and sing songs about her even if she doesn’t particularly want me to right then.
“Would you die for me?”
To die for her would be to let her down in a way, so I have to measure my words carefully.
How do you tell a baby that yes, you’d die for her, but that you’d rather not? It’s better to stick around for when she starts middle school and high school and finds the going rough on the soccer field or in home room or in the mall when a friend thinks it’s a great idea to steal earrings. Just one pair.
I would die for her.
What dad wouldn’t die for his daughter?
So, why is a freckle-faced second grader asking me this?
It began with a “back in my day” discussion with her sisters about the genre of rap music, today so wrapped up in a new holy trinity – money rolls, cars and clothes. Oh, and women. Nameless women. Clubs. Affirmations of toughness and manhood and degradation of women, to make things simple.
I told the girls about conscious rap in the early 90s, music written from the souls of men amidst social upheaval following the L.A. riots. Attempts to personify a plight of young black men and young Mexicans who found their voices with those of Dr. Dre and the Wu-Tang Clan and Snoop Dogg.
“Would you die for me, daddy?”
It’s more than 20 years later, a 2,453-mile drive from Rodney King’s run-in with police, and here I am, all brown on the outside, but white on the inside, raised in a white neighborhood and as close to any inner-city heritage as I am from Canadian ice fishing, and I’m talking the talk like I lived it.
I tell the girls about the iconic dad way back then who, right about this time of year, heard the outrage and fury of the young men around him, black and brown, filled with anger and revenge. He lifted his young daughter onto his shoulders, and, in a soundbite that resonated throughout a culture and a music genre, uttered perhaps the greatest dad quote of our generation:
“I’m gonna tell you right now. If I have to die today for this little African right here to have a future, I’m a dead mother****er.”
“Would you die for me, daddy? And, how would that work?”
I scooped up Grace, fortunate that my fight to live for her would probably be such a smoother ride than the unnamed father I’ll always admire. I’ll likely never understand the day-to-day struggles he and his little African knew.
Our neighborhoods are worlds away, but our bond is in fatherhood.
My most conceivable roadblock to living well for my little American? It’s probably my own health. I should eat a salad and make sure I wear my seatbelt. We’re not far from crime and stray bullets where we live, but we’re not immersed in it.
I explain a bit of this to Grace, so she won’t imagine a Hunger Games style of test in store for me to prove my devotion to her. Rather than die, I will live.
We talked a bit about it. About the heart on my driver’s license and what it means for me as an organ donor. About the fact that if a tiger or rhino or allosaurus should ever chase us down the street in search of a meal, I will stay back and wrestle to the death.
She has strict instructions to climb a tree or find a policeman and live to be 100.