Category Archives: Because I Love

An Appropriate Dosage of Hope.

So I’m downstairs, making breakfast for me and the boys.

This is an elaborate and arcane process. It involves more wandering in and out of rooms than you might expect, and trying to remember what I meant to do there. Plus a fair amount of esoteric behavior like looking for a spoon that I’m sure I was just holding…. but it’s not here anymore. Was I holding it? Is this a Matrix thing? Was it some sort of fucking magical elf-spoon?

(It was not a magical elf-spoon. Alas.)

Some of the reason for this is because part of the breakfast I’m preparing is coffee (for me, not the boys). And that means I haven’t yet had my coffee. And that means that daddy needs his medicine. And by medicine I mean the literal drug that I literally take because I want all that ergogenic mojo all up in my headbrains and bodymeats. And by daddy I mean literally me. Because I am that.

(Who’s your parasocial daddy?)

I can’t blame it all on coffee though. Some of it is just me being groggy. And some of it is me thinking about everything at once, like I do. And part of it is probably some of the ADHD (though I still never know how much to point the finger at that, as I’m still knew to that diagnosis. And it seems unfair to lay *all* my disorganized bullshit at the feet of that particular acronym.)

Nevertheless, as I walk past the end-table, hunting elusive faerie cutlery, I see my little pill-box thing.

(Because this is my life now. This is who I am, apparently.) 

First I have to figure out what fucking day it is. And yeah. It’s Thursday. But if it’s Thursday, why are there still pills in the little Thursday pill home? But I’m pretty sure that I remember taking my meds this morning. That’s why the pill thing is here, right? Because I carried it downstairs when I was getting ready to take the pills….

But the pills are still in there.

So I look at this thing, and I say, “I don’t know if I took my meds already.”

I have to make something clear here, I’m not talking to myself. But at the same time, I’m not really asking my kids for advice on this, either. Because while I value their thoughts and feelings, they shouldn’t be making certain decisions. They’re 7 and 11 years old, respectively. They’re wise beyond their years and off-the-charts articulate, but *I’m* the one who needs to fucking figure out whether I’ve taken my meds.

But why am I saying this out loud then? I honestly don’t know. I do tend to process things out loud more often when the boys are around. Maybe that’s how we’re wired as primates, to talk around our children so we can model our decision making process.

Anyway, whatever the reason, I’m talking it through, saying, “Do I risk missing my meds entirely, or do I risk doubling up on my meds? If I double up, will that make me really scattered, or will I be Super Productive today…?”

Without missing a beat or breaking stride, Oot walks behind me and asks casually, “What’s the LD-50?”

I turn to look at him, not quite sure what I just heard. He’s doing something at the sink now. “Did you just ask me about the LD-50?” I ask.

He turns to look at me, nodding. He’s not above showboating. He likes being clever. And if there’s a pedantry gene, he has it (and he got it from me) but right now he’s not doing that. Or if he is doing it, he’s gone next level and has realized the value of the slow-play. Maybe he’s learning that less is more…

Either way, he’s just looking at me with vague curiosity in his big, serious eyes, as if he can’t understand why my tone would be incredulous. As if he doesn’t know why I would be impressed that he remembered the concept of LD-50. Something I didn’t learn about until my junior year of college. Something I’m pretty sure I only mentioned once to my boys a couple months ago, probably when I was dosing Cutie with antibiotics during a recent deeply shitty medial adventure.

“Yeah,” he says.

And I just start to laugh. I go over and hug him, laughing. And I keep laughing uncontrollably for at least a solid minute.

I know I’ve laughed in surprise before. (That’s one of the big theories about laughter, actually. Some folks believe true laughter, [Duchenne laughter] only erupts as a symptom. It’s the result of a sort cognitive fuse being blown when we experience something that goes contrary to our expectations. The cognitive and neurophysiological roots of laughter is one of the many odd rabbit holes of research I’ve gone down over the years, as I used to consider myself a bit of a humorist. But that, as they say, is a blog for a different day…)

Anyway. I’m laughing. And while part of this *is* surprise. It’s also just joy. I don’t remember laughing out of real joy before I became a dad. It’s been happening a fair amount this last year as these boys continue to startle me with their kindness and honesty. They startle me by actually remembering things I’ve told them. And not just remembering. They actually understand and internalize and make use of this stuff, too….

You might wonder why this surprises me. I mean, why on earth would I be dadding so hard if not to this exact purpose? Why would I be spending so much time and energy trying to teach them stuff, if not so they would learn it?

And… yeah. I mean. Of course. That’s the dream.

But if I’ve learned anything over the last decade, is that you can care a lot, and work really hard, and do your level best… and in the end all you get for your trouble is double therapy and trouble sleeping at night. So these days I fight to keep my expectations modest. It’s the whole Buddhist thing: Taṇhā leads to dukkha. Desire causes suffering. Hope is the highwire without which you need not fear a fall.

So I try not to hope too much for the boys. The world is hard enough, and life is heavy enough. They don’t need my expectations weighing them down. I just try to take them as they come and enjoy them for who they are.

But oh it’s hard. These boys, they’re pretty great.

It occurs to me that I sat down to tell a cute (if slightly braggy) story about my kids, and it’s turned into something else. I can’t be surprised at that, though. Most people think that writing is just expressing what you already think or feel. It’s transcription. It’s explanation. I used to think that, too, way back in the day. But not for decades. Now I know better. For me, writing is almost always a process of exploration and discovery. Not always, but often.

You want to know the *real* truth? I originally started to write this little story as a *tweet* and instead it turned into a thousand word maunder where the upshot is that I’m surprised my boys actually listen to me. In some ways that doesn’t seem like much. Hardly worth the work or words.

But on the other hand, what’s better than your kids listening to you and then turning around and reminding you of what you’ve shared? What more could I hope for?

And there we are gain. Back at hope. And hope, you see, is a hell of a drug, and while that doesn’t make hope bad, it does make it dangerous. Maybe it’s just that way for me though. Maybe I have hope sensitivity. Or whatever the hope-appropriate version of drug-intolerance is. Maybe it’s that when it comes to hope, the Effective Dose is way too close to the Lethal Dose for me.

But these boys. I tell you. They are such a wonder and a delight. And so, despite myself sometimes, I hope.

pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, day in the life, musings, Oot, The Art of Letting Go, the man behind the curtain, Uncategorized | By Pat58 Responses

The Double-Edged Sword of Empathy

So a couple days ago, while I was in the middle of doing some promotional streaming for our charity fundraiser, my phone rang.

Even though I was in the middle of a live-broadcast discussion of mental health, I still tried to pick up. But, since the phone was muted, I was slow and I missed it.

Then a text came in:

“Oot would like to call you about a baby bird he found.”

As soon as I’d wrapped up the stream, I gave a call back. My eldest boy put me on speakerphone. (He is only 11, a stripling youth, and therefore does not know that this behavior is anathema. Plus I love him, so much is immediately forgiven.)

(A rare sighting in the wild)

While they’d been out camping, he explained, his little brother (Cutie, 7) had spotted a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. They were worried about it, and they wanted to bring it home.

Did it have feathers? I asked. Or was it still pink with its eyes closed?

Kinda some feathers, he said, but it was pretty pink. And yeah, its eyes were pretty closed.

Did you try to put it back in the nest? I asked.

It was way too high up, he explained. They could tell it was the right nest because they could hear the other birds up there peeping. He was obviously hungry because he kept opening his mouth, but he wasn’t very loud.

He and Cutie had a theory that maybe he was weak because he wasn’t very good at peeping up for food. Or maybe his mom had pushed him out of the nest because he wasn’t a very loud peeper.

Or, I offered, maybe it might not be able make much noise because he was hungry and weak.

Oot pointed out they’d already fed him some oats mashed up with some water. Also, he added, they really wanted to bring him home and take care of him.

(The Byirb in question)

This is what happens. You read to them. You talk about emotions, and listen as best you can. You celebrate and encourage their empathy… and then they grow up wanting to save baby birds.

And oh, I love them for it. And at the same time I worry I’ve done them a bad turn despite my best intentions. Because we need that empathy. It is, in my opinion, the defining human characteristic. But it is a double-edged sword. When you have a lot, it gets really heavy. And you can’t just pick and choose. You carry it all the time. And all too often it feels like it’s got no handle either, so you just kinda walk though your whole life constantly cut up and bleeding….

And I love that they’re like this. I love that they want to save baby birds. I wouldn’t want them any other way. But still, they’re *my* baby birds. And I want to keep them safe from both hurt AND harm….

But I can’t keep them from the world, and I can’t keep them from being who they are. It’s just hard, knowing part of your job as a parent is to let your children be hurt by the world.

It’s going to be a lot of work, I tell him. It’s helpless, and it will need care and attention. Warmth and food all the time. Even in the middle of the night….

Oot says he knows.

And there’s a really good chance that the bird won’t make it, I say. Even if we do everything right. Even if we’re really careful, there’s a good chance that it’ll die.

Oot replies that even if that happens, at least we’ll have done our best. And if we do everything we can, we won’t have to feel as bad. And he says that at the very least, if we’re keeping it warm and fed, it will know that someone cares. If it does die, at least it would know (as much as a baby bird can know anything) that someone was there for it at the end. It wouldn’t have to be alone.

(They named him “Mr. Cheepers.”)

These are the things my son explains to me. Or maybe I say them to him. I honestly can’t remember, because the truth is that I’ve said those things to my children in the past, and now they say them back to me. It’s a hell of a thing, having children that listen and remember. It warms my heart and breaks it all at once.

So I tell him of course he can bring it over. And I’ll help them do research. And I’ll help them take care of it. And we’ll do our best. And I tell him that I love that he cares as much as he does.

Then I hang up the call and get ready for the bird to die before he even gets home. Or to die in the night. Or to die after we’ve taken care of it for two weeks. I need to be braced for it, so if it happens I won’t be blindsided and hurt too badly. So if it happens I can ease the boys through the experience…

But they get back with the bird just fine. What’s more, it turns out there’s a place that takes baby birds and cares for them. It’s only an hour away.

I ask them if they’d like to take the bird there, rather than have us take care of it ourselves. It will have a better chance with people who know what they’re doing, who know birds and how to care for them…

And they surprise me by saying yes. Which is impressive in a whole different way. It shows that they don’t just want a pet, or to be the people who nurse a sick animal back to health. They want what is best for the bird. It’s selfless in a way I didn’t expect.

So that is why I spent almost three and a half hours driving through the twisting back roads of Wisconsin on Tuesday night. Phone ran out of battery. Got lost.

But at the end of it all:

(Yay!)

There is a clarity in crisis. When something is very wrong, it’s easy to know what’s important. That means you can focus. That means it’s easier to decide what you can do. This is why crisis can be oddly comforting.

(This is why a lot of us do odd things: like fantasize about the zombie apocalypse, or inadvertently create or promote crisis in our own lives.)

The trouble is, of course, when you have multiple crisis to choose from. The older you get, the more you know about the world, the more you realize that there’s an endless all-you-can-stress buffet of calamity going on every day. I spend a long time on the horns of dilemma, wondering which fire I should be throwing water on. Fascism or the Pandemic? Fighting homelessness or hunger?

Or, just to pick something entirely at random… should I spend my evening trying to save a baby bird, or should I spend it trying to promote my charity fundraiser that only has a few days left?

In this case, I chose the bird. I’m conflicted about that. I’m proud of Worldbuilders, and the work we do has improved the lives of tens of thousands of people over the last decade. What’s more, the current fundraiser is important for the financial stability of the charity. A lot of the products over there are things designed to appeal to my readers. So it feels like there’s no better person to promote them than me…

(Case in Point.)

It’s hard for me to remember that other people *can* spread the word about the fundraiser. And no matter how hard I hustle, nothing works better than word of mouth. Either people will be excited enough to buy stuff and tell their friends during the final days, or they won’t.

On the other hand, I *was* the only person who was going to save this baby bird. And the only person who could have this particular little adventure in empathy with my boys…

So I’m trying hard to count this one as a win. I saved a baby birb and was a pretty good dad.

If you want to check out the cool things Worldbuilders is selling, you can head over here.

Later space cowboys,

pat

Also posted in babies, baby ducks, Cutie Snoo, day in the life, musings, Oot | By Pat31 Responses

One Good Thing #4: Henry

Allow me to introduce you to the newest member of our household.

His name is Henry.

(Say hello, Henry!)

The boys and I have become very fond of him over the last couple weeks, to the extent where I think it’s fair to say that he’s a member of the family….

We recently celebrated a family holiday, and after eating cake and watching shows and cuddling, I asked the boys what they would like more of in their lives. Because if I knew that, we could work together on getting it.

It was late when I asked, the boys were already in bed and falling asleep with the unstoppable surety of someone falling off a cliff. (I remember falling asleep like that, and I hope to again someday, but I worry it might be the purview of the young.)

But I’m a night-owl, and I need less sleep than they do. So I have an irritating habit of asking them questions just as I’ve tucked them in all snug and warm…

It was only then, standing over them in the dim light from the hallway, that I remembered that I wanted to ask them. (You have to leave the hall light on. Of course you do. I remember what it’s like to be a child.) And even though they were fading fast, I asked them: What would you like more of in your life?

Cutie’s eyes were closed, but without hesitation, yawningly, he said he wanted secret tunnels, showing he is the true child of my heart.

Oot was quiet for a bit, and I thought he’d passed out. When he finally spoke, his voice was blurry. As if he was only dimly able to focus on what I’d said from where he was at bottom of a deep well of sleep.  “Beautiful rich colours,” he said, soft and slow like he was speaking under hypnosis. Then added: “Cosy Flowers,” showing that he too, is the child of my heart.

Since then, we’ve been working on cosy, beautiful, richly coloured flowers. It’s with muted confusion that I realize how oddly domestic I have become. I feel like this should fill me with a yawning terror, like I’m forgetting my true self. The self I’ve been forever. The me who never bothered putting up so much as a poster in so many of the places I lived, let alone go through all the work of planting flowers….

Instead, I find these things to be an untrammeled delight. (Well… *slightly* trammeled. Sometimes. Depending on how careful the boys are about when they place their feet.)

And it’s how Henry has come into our lives…

(Click to Embiggen)

(Also note Oot’s side hussle: promoting True Dungeon like a champ.)

Speaking of which, if you’re interested in seeing more True Dungeon stuff, as well as dozens of other cool geeky products (including some stuff from me) Worldbuilders is having its Geeks-Doing-Good fundraiser next week. (Here’s a link you can use to follow the Indigogo. If you plug in your e-mail there, you can get a notification when everything goes live on the 21st.)

I’ll be doing a bunch of streaming to celebrate and promote it the fundraiser. Games and Q&A and discussions with special guests.

Though *that* reminds me. I don’t think I mentioned it on the blog yet, but if you didn’t already know, I’ve been streaming regularly over on twitch for the last several months. Every Friday from 1:00 – 3:00 CST, as well as other random times.

I’ll be posting the streaming schedule for the charity up here on the blog in the next couple days. As well as descriptions of of some of the kingkiller related prizes. But if you’re prefer to get live updates you can just follow my twitch channel and make sure your notifications to ON. That way, you get a heads-up about *all* the streams I do, even if they’re scheduled last minute, completely spontaneous.

That’s all for now. I’ll see y’all more here in the blog over the next couple weeks.

Until then, I hope your lives are full of rich, warm, beautiful colours.

Later space cowboys,

pat

Also posted in Arts and Crafts, cool things, Cutie Snoo, day in the life, One Good Thing, Oot, The Terror of Domesticity | By Pat38 Responses

Ain’t no party like a Worldbuilders Party cause a Worldbuilders party don’t…

As I start typing this, It’s around 10:30 on Dec 17th. It’s the final day of the 11th annual Worldbuilders fundraiser.

We are rapidly closing in on three-quarters of a million dollars.

And that’s excellent. I’m over the moon. I want to talk about that. So much.

But here’s the thing: I have news…

And rather than work up to it slowly like I normally do, I’m going to switch it up an little and jump straight to it. Imma gonna spring the news, then go back and tell you the why and the wherefore.

You ready?

(Bam!)

Or, for those of you who prefer more info in your info-graphic:

Simply said, tomorrow, December 18th, I’m going to be streaming for 14 hours straight to celebrate the success of this year’s fundraiser. We’ll have guests stopping for discussions, I’m going to play Minecraft with Oot, we’re going to show off videos for the stretch goals we’ve achieved, tell some old, beloved stories…

…and talk about the amazing things Heifer does, like give away goats…

Here’s the schedule:

(All the times [except the multifarious midnights] are CST.)

And, since we’re doing all that, it only seems to make sense to leave the doors open for people to donate throughout the day.

The reasons we’re doing this are manifold, but here are the main two:

1. Tradition.

Those of you who have been following Worldbuilders for a while know that our end-of-year fundraiser used to look a lot different than it does now. For one thing, it used to be exclusively run off of my blog, and it used to run for an entire month.

Except it didn’t. For years and years, we ended up extending the fundraiser out past our initial ending date. Sometimes it was because we had a last minute sponsor we wanted to showcase. Sometimes it was because some chaos or catastrophe threw us off schedule. Once it was because we got offered some matching money and we couldn’t bring ourselves to say no to that. Once things got so out of hand we extended *past* Christmas and the whole fundraiser spanned over seven weeks…

And some times we did it just for fun, or because we’d gotten into the habit.

This year, we’re deciding to continue the tradition in a different way. We’re taking one final day just to appreciate how lovely this community is. To put a bow on it. To show off some of the lovely things people have done. To relax and have fun and enjoy our success.

And, of course…

2. To give the latecomers one last chance.

What usually happens the day after the fundraiser is that I go into a deep, healing Odinsleep. When I emerge, I peek on social media and I invariably see dozens of people saying, “Oh no! Worldbuilders is over?!? Did I miss it? Can I still donate?”

And I get that. This is a busy time of year. Finals. Holiday planning. Family travel. Or maybe you’re just like me and tend to put things off to the last minute and then kinda forget about them.

But still, it breaks my heart to see those messages.

So. One extra day. If you were meaning to donate. Now’s your chance. If you were going to tell your friend about us, you’ve got a few more hours. If you were going to spread the word on social media, now you can use this amazing gif to do just that.

(Ooontz Ooontz Ooontz Ooontz Ooontz.)

*      *     *

So yeah. C’mon over and take one last chance to win fabulous prizes while making the world a better place…

Every $10 you donate still gets you a chance to win all manner of coolness. And if you donate on my team page, you’ll be eligible to win even more.

Look forward to seeing many of you over on the stream tomorrow.

But for now? I sleep…

pat

 

Later Edit: I meant to ask this last night, but forgot because I was tired.

If any of you have stories about worldbuilders, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments below. Here’s an example from a previous year:

“I started a new job as a barista for an Independent cafe in Philadelphia this year. I saved up all the change that people tipped to me. I was so surprised at how much i had when I counted it up! Thanks for all that you do!”

It warms my heart to hear those stories, and I might share some of them on the stream.

Also posted in Achievement Unlocked!, Ask the Author, baby ducks, being awesome, Worldbuilders 2019 | By Pat17 Responses

The Warning on the Door

Y’know what? It’s been a while since we’ve had a cute kid story on the blog here. I think we’re overdue.

So a while back we were having a little party at our house. And my oldest boy Oot….

You guys do know Oot, right? It’s been a while since I talked about him here. He’s the older of my two little boys.

(Here he is winning a game of Tak.)

Oot is 7 years old now, if you can believe it. He is my heart’s delight. And despite my failings, he has grown up sweet and kind and loving and full of empathy.

So. A couple months ago, we were having a little shindig at our house. Except this wasn’t an event of the sort that I would organize, not a couple people coming over for games. Sarah’s family is huge, and there are roughly eleven billionty children in it. So this isn’t a cozy little gathering. It’s going to be an event. It’s going to be a happening.

The complication? We have a relatively small house. Only about 1400 square feet, and one of the two bathrooms is only accessible through a bedroom.

And here’s the thing. It’s *my* bedroom. Which means it a fucking mess. I’ve got piles of books and detritus everywhere. You can’t hardly see the floor. Plus I have a lot of stuff on my shelves is  dangerous at best, and at worst just straight-up deadly. Picture it as a more cramped version of a wizard’s lab, except instead of having a stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling, there’s a mattress on the floor.

Simply said: I do not want people wandering through my bedroom. For real. I’ve mentioned this many, many times to Sarah when she has family over.

So. Anyway. We’re getting ready for the party, and I come back from an errand to discover Oot has written up some helpful signs and stuck them to my door.

20161211_124915(Click to Embiggen. Seriselee.)

Please, *please* click the above image and try to puzzle out what it says on your own. Oot has my genes both for penmanship and spelling, but if you click on it, you should be able to make it out with a little work. And it’s *so* much better if you read it in the original.

For those of you who can’t quite make it out, the signs say:

“Do. not. Entre.”

“i. Will. Kil. You. if. You. Trn.”

“This. Nob. (Arrow pointing to doorknob.)”

“Seriselee. Stae. The. Fukc. Out.”

Now when I see this, I am absolutely fucking delighted. I am over the moon. I could not possibly enjoy it more.

First and foremost, this is a very thoughtful thing he’s done. I ask Sarah if she put him up to it, and she said she hasn’t. All on his own, my little boy has decided to help me keep my room private because he knows it bothers me when guests wander in there. He’s heard me talk about it, and he’s trying to help.

As for the rest…. well… I’m probably reading it a little differently than you, because I know more of the backstory. (It might surprise none of you to know that I consider backstory to be pretty important.)

You see, years ago, when I discovered that here in small town Wisconsin, a mortgage is actually cheaper than renting an office. So I bought a grotty old student rental house to use as a disturbance-free writing space.

In that house, I have a writing room which nobody is allowed to enter. Because it’s my fucking writing room.

But I also use the house as a guest house where friends can stay when they’re in town. And my friends are curious people. So years and years ago I put up some signs on the door:

IMG_20170406_191850

Oot comes to visit me at the Workhouse sometimes. And I put these signs up *years* ago. Long before he could read.

But the world keeps spinning. And things change. And our children absorb so much more than we are ever ready for. And no matter how careful we are, we are never careful enough….

So I come home from my errand to see my sweet child has carefully labeled my door. I read these signs and I laugh. And I thank Oot for being so helpful and considerate. And I tell him that I am really impressed that he has done such a good job of writing everything out. And it’s true. I am impressed.

“But I’m wondering,” I say. “We’re inviting these people over to our house for a party. Do you think it might be a little rude to threaten to kill them?” (I’m going to leave the discussion of the word ‘fuck’ for another day.)

Oot looks thoughtful, he narrows his eyes a little and nods. “You’re right,” he says, as if he’s really kind of impressed that I’d figured that out. “I’ll make a new sign.”

So I wander away, happy that I’ve so deftly fixed the problem.

Ten minutes later, I come back to see this:
20161211_125516

I would like to point out that I’ve never heard Oot say, “Fuck.” But obviously the sign at the workhouse has made a deep and lasting impression. It occurs to me that in his mind, this might actually just be the natural way you ask people to stay out of a room. This is just a regular warning sign: “Wet Paint.” “Do not park.” “Stay the fuck out.”

So we talk again. And I tell him that he’s done a good job by getting rid of threatening to kill people… “But it’s still not really *polite* yet, is it?”

So he takes another run at it:

And these notes are still on my door to this day. I cannot think of a reason I would ever want to take them down….

I hope y’all are doing okay out there.

Take care of each other,

pat

Also posted in babies, day in the life, I am completely fucking serious, Oot, Things my baby has taught me about writing | By Pat64 Responses

Being Evil

Tonight, I was playing in the living room with my girlfriend (Sarah) my oldest son (codename Oot: age 5.5) and my youngest son (codename Cutie Snoo, age 1.5)

It wasn’t anything fancy. Nothing organized. I’d just come back from recording this week’s podcast with Max Temkin, and rather than head upstairs to do more e-mail, as I am wont to do, I decided to stay downstairs and play with the kids.

A large part of this is because my Cutie is at a magical age. 18 months is pretty awesome. After a bit of a hiatus, he’s saying da-da again, and it pulls at my heart.

Those of you without kids might have trouble understanding how enthusiastic an 18 month-old can be. Let me explain.

You know how excited a dog can get when you’ve been away for a couple hours? (Or let’s be honest, when you’ve just left the room for a couple minutes). At 18 months, my little boy has that level of enthusiasm. He runs up to me, his face all lit up, grinning, his legs doing that straight up-and-down stomping walk that’s the closest he can get to a run.

And all the time he’s saying “da-da-da-da-da-da!”

So yeah. It’s pretty fucking amazing. I’m not going to lie.

Anyway, I’m hanging out with my family, and Oot walks up to Sarah and says, “I’m so… thirsty! Can you please… get me… a drink of water?”

His performance makes it clear that he is about to die from thirst. People in the desert don’t have it this bad. He’s really going full Shatner in his performance.

Sarah starts to get up to get him a drink of water. She does this because she loves him.

Sarah and Oot

(Exhibit A)

“You know where the water is,” I say to Oot. “You can get yourself a drink. You’re a very grown-up child.”

I say this because I love him too. Sarah and exhibit our love in different ways. She wants him to be happy now. I want him to be happy in the future, and part of that is making sure he’s self-reliant.

Plus he’s five. If we were living in the wild, he’d be hunting and cooking birds on his own. So yeah. He can get his own drink of water.

But here’s the thing, it’s a little late at night. The kitchen is on the other side of the house. It’s a whole, like, 50 feet away. And it’s late in the evening, so that part of the house is kinda dim.

And he’s five, so he’s a little scared of being alone, and of the dark.

“Will you come with me?” he asks.

This is a familiar dance. We want him to do things for himself. He wants company. We want him to be brave. He wants to feel safe.

Nobody’s wrong here. We all want good things. But they’re in conflict.

“You can do it,” I say. “I know you can.” (Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not some muy mas macho monster. If it was fully dark in there, I’d work with him. But it’s not. He can handle it. He has before. It’s good practice for him.

I’ll tell you a story,” Sarah says.

This is a compromise we use sometimes. If he hears our voices, he knows he’s not alone. So one of us will tell him a story, and it will help him go somewhere in the house when he’s a little spooked.

“I’ll tell you a story,” I say.

“I want mom to do it,” he says, moving toward the baby gate that leads into the dining room.

He’s on to me.

Once there was a little boy who really liked candy,” Sarah says. “So he decided to go exploring.

I’m going to be honest here, Sarah’s narrative structure isn’t the best. Her themes can be kinda muddy sometimes, and, truthfully, her stories are often really lacking in terms of the Aristotelian unities. But even so, I know she’s up for this. Two minutes of story will get Oot into the kitchen and back. I watch as he opens the gate then turns on the light to the dining room. Out of our line of sight. Out of his line of sight. He’s gone.

So one day he walked out into the the backyard and he found–

A Thousand Angry Ghosts!” I say. I don’t yell it. But I say it in a really loud voice. My phantom of the opera voice. I project from my diaphragm.

And from the other room, comes a high, piercing scream. It lasts for a full two seconds.

Then Oot comes running back into the living room.

You’re going to have to trust me on this, it was *super* funny. Sarah will back me up on this.

You see, most days, I’m a good dad.

Other days, I’m an AWESOME dad.

Stay tuned, everyone. Soon we’ll have bedtime stories.

Seriously,

pat

Also posted in babies, Beautiful Games, Cutie Snoo, Oot, podcasts, Sarah | By Pat26 Responses

A Guy Game

Today Oot came up to me and asked me if I’d like to play a game.

“What kind of a game?” I asked him.

“Oh you know,” he explains, sounding very matter-of-fact. “A guy game. Because we’re both guys.”

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I hear this, and I sigh a little inside. We’ve tried really hard to keep the gender stereotype stuff away from him. I don’t want him to think that trucks are for boys and dolls are for girls. That boys are tough and girls are delicate. When I tell him stories, the heroes win because they’re clever instead of being strong, and sometimes it’s the prince that needs rescuing, not the princess.

But I can’t watch every piece of media before he does. Or every book before he reads it. Besides, this stuff is insidious. It’s everywhere. And I know that despite my best intentions I sometimes tend to reinforce stereotypes without meaning to.

It’s like trying to keep dust out of your house. You can do a lot, but ultimately, *you* are one of the main reasons there’s dust. You track it in on your clothes without knowing it. And even if you somehow managed to avoid that, you’d still shed skin cells. Even if you don’t want to. This constant, low-grade sexism is everywhere. It sneaks in.

But they can’t all be learning experiences. Sometimes you just want to play a game with your kid. Sometimes you watch The Princess Bride because you love it, and it’s a really great movie even though there is only one woman in it, and Buttercup is pretty much the epitome of a useless trophy damsel.

Sometimes you’re going to lose a little. That’s the way of things. It stings, but all I can do is try my best and hope he grows up having internalized less of this cultural bullshit than me. Then he won’t have to work so hard to be a halfway decent human being.

Then, years from now when he has kids, he can help them be even better than he is. And so on. I might lose a battle here and there, but I’m taking the long view. I’m aiming to win the war.

So it’s okay. We’ll play a guy game.

“What sort of guy game would you like to play?” I ask him.

“Well,” he says. “Maybe me and you could play a game where we make a house.”

I’m okay with that. It’s a good game. I did a lot of construction projects with my dad when I was little. At least it’s not killing-things game. It’s a making-things game. I’ll take what I can get.

So we go into the room and he explains the game to me. We’re dragons, and we’re making a house. In the house we’re going to make a nest. And in the nest we have some eggs. Our job is to take care of the eggs, keep them warm and safe until they hatch.

After they hatch, we’ll take care of the baby dragons. We’ll bring them food to eat and toys and soft things to cuddle up with.

You know. A guy game. Because we’re both guys.

Some days you lose despite your best efforts. Some days you win without even trying.

Be good everyone,

pat

Also posted in Achievement Unlocked!, Beautiful Games, Oot | By Pat84 Responses
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