I love being a dad and I love my children, but sometimes they are kind of a drag. Case in point, most of the time I feel like I cannot concentrate or participate in anything besides watching them like a hawk when they are around. Usually, this is not such a big deal. It is the small price you pay for being a parent and it is really the only way that I know of to repay your own parents for most likely doing the same thing, ensuring that you could grow up in a relatively safe environment and not choke to death on rogue M&M’s nor electrocute yourself by sticking various metal instruments into electrical outlets.
Also, as a secret introvert, I don’t always mind being able to shy away from meeting new people or striking up conversations with people I only sort of know by hiding behind the fact that I have to watch over and/or entertain my children. In fact there have been multiple times I have used this to my advantage, including a time or two when I have attached myself to someone else’s child for the explicit purpose of avoiding interactions with adults.
However, when this has been an extreme disadvantage is at family gatherings. Family gatherings have always been pretty important to me. I grew up not too far away from a significant portion of my extended family and this was the cause of a kind of party circuit of summer fun. Having moved down to central Indiana, I have gained so many things, but I have also lost a little bit of a connection to my extended family. Sure I can keep up with people via Facebook and other means, but for the most part, I look forward to the various weddings, baptisms, Christmas parties and other family functions that I have been fortunate enough to attend in the past few years.
So while it has been great to see a good portion of my cousins, aunts and uncles, the emphasis in the sentence really falls on the word ‘see‘. For at most of these functions, I get to make some eye contact and possibly exchange an opening greeting before invariably turning around to try to catch a glimpse of what kind of trouble my daughters are getting into. This is then followed by a muffled “I’m sorry” and a mad dash to prevent the wedding cake from being toppled over, a leg from being broken or a fifth handful of jellybeans from being eaten.
Invariably, there are promises that I will return to the conversation in a moment. But of course, a moment tuns into a lot of moments and then not only has the other party gone on to a different group of people, but even if they are still there, that moment of the conversation is gone, most likely never to return again. I feel like most of my family is getting very well acquainted with the back of my head. (Insert Beastie Boys quote/joke here.)(This also reminds me that I should probably get a haircut, since I am pretty sure I am starting to sport a pretty horrendous, but shockingly real tail.)(By the way, that scar on the back of my head is from when I fell on a TV as a child. Thanks for asking.)
So as the annual family trek to Door County, Wisconsin is almost upon us, I would humbly ask my family’s forgiveness well in advance for only being able to engage in conversation for brief periods of time. I really want to know all about what is going on with your new position, new house, wacky antics and other excellent developments. And I am going to try to arm myself with as many Sippy Cups, Cheerios, fruit snacks and
Benadryl tablets DVD’s as I can to help keep my kids occupied so I can focus on you. But there is a high likelihood that at a moment’s notice, I may have to run off like Mighty Mouse to save the day. It’s not you, it’s me.
As the children get older, this phenomenon will begin fade. The girls will start to be able to function rather well on their own (and police each other!) But just when I am ready to settle into long, poignant discussions and telling of old stories, I know that many of my family members will be just starting to have to chase after their own children and grandchildren, just like I used to do. Now I will be the one to stand and watch as others dutifully rush to keep their children happy and safe. I will then realize that just like these all too brief conversations, my children’s’ lives will rush by in the blink of an eye and the turn of a head.
So, pencil me in for a discussion about how the Cubs still need help in the bullpen when we are all in our 60’s. Either that, or I just might have to start picking up a child in order to start a conversation, instead of avoiding one.