When I was little I remember Father’s Day meaning my dad would sleep in, we’d make breakfast in bed for him, give him cards, and then he’d watch golf all day while my sister and I went off and did whatever we’d normally do. I would always ask why there wasn’t a Kid’s Day? My mother would tell me, “Every day is Kid’s Day.” I don’t think I really understood that till yesterday when I got the real deal Father’s Day for the first time. I celebrated this holiday when Max was a baby, then when he was 1, but yesterday…2-year-old Max, 3-month-old Dodge, and my wife Kate, and my parents taught me the true meaning of Father’s Day.
I woke up to tiny morning-breath in my face. Max, my two-year-old, was pretty much standing on top of me waiting for me to wake up. I sleepily opened my eyes and Max blurted out the words Kate had instructed him to say, “Happy Father’s Day!” I thanked him and pulled him in for a hug which also came with a morning-breath kiss. Kate and Dodge brought me breakfast in bed where the four of us sat and watched cartoons together as Max became more and more hyperactive. Max gave me a homemade giraffe he had made at summer school, dodge coo’d and smiled in my arms, and Kate made everything easy.
I then moved downstairs where I claimed the entire couch to myself and filled the TV with SportsCenter, movies with explosions, and Discovery Channel mockumentary about mermaids. I napped as well. Food was brought to me, kids were kept at a distance so I could sleep, and things were fantastically relaxing. Max decided he was going to be ROBOT MAX for the day (he places a colored box over his head and says “ROBOT MAX” to everything) which is great because you can give him commands and he will execute his duties…he also takes tiny steps and is easy to chase if need be. If he takes off running it usually ends abruptly with him going box first into a wall or inanimate object. I love ROBOT MAX.
The afternoon was spent at my parent’s house where family play-time was bountiful. “Papa Doo & G.G.,” as the grand kids call them, have toys that are kept at their house so it is like a reunion every time they go over. Plus there is the pool…and let me tell you, I think Max might be a fish! For the past few weekends since summer arrived in Kansas we have been working on Max at the pool. While he enjoyed the zero depth pool at the YMCA, he has been deathly afraid of any water higher than his waist…till recently. Once I found the right life vest for him that fit him the way he liked…he began spending more time aquatic than on land. This is fine with me as I am a water person!
With Max clearly comfortable in the pool I have started working on skills he can use at the lake this summer as well as rules. The rules are simple:
- You must wear a life vest if you are by the pool
- No running no matter what by the pool
- No getting in the water without an adult
The skills we have been working on are jumping in the water and how to swim. Swimming is easy in the pool where there are no waves but in the lake there is always some motion and our bay tends to swirl slightly causing everything to drift to the west…like a current. Max is good at using his legs but hasn’t quite mastered the arms part of the doggy-paddle which he’ll need to navigate the waters of Lake George. He has become fantastic about jumping in from the side of the pool to my arms and can easily get in and out from the steps…but there are no steps at the lake and the height from the dock to the water is a bit higher. So I taught Max how to go up and down the ladder in the pool and to jump to me from the diving board. Pretty awesome for a 2-year-old!
Shortly after that video, Max dove head-first into the water from the diving board and I started teaching him how to dive. He is fearless. The other great thing is that he is comfortable swimming in the deep end which is great since the lake is about 6 feet deep off our dock and about 15 feet at the raft. My biggest fear is him having no fear of the water so at the end of every swimming session I have him take off the vest and step into the pool to me. He sinks like a rock to the bottom without the life vest and comes scrambling to the top with his arms going and his feet kicking. I give him a second to recover before he is about to go under again, then I grab him and scoop him up in my arms where we talk about our water safety rules and why we always wear a vest by the water.
That night we had a feast. Peter Luger’s steaks on the grill, dining outside, my boys, my dad, my family…it was great! I got my dad two goofy cards and a submersible iPhone case like the one used to record the videos above of Max. Dodge sat in my lap and smiled at me as we drank fine wine and talked about the world. Then, my dad gave me the look. I know this look well. I love this look. It’s the look that means, “Night swim?” I nodded back and we slowly snuck away from the table and cleaning duties. It was our day…why not. Three generations of boys climbed into the pool as the stars lit up the sky and the water cooled our bodies. It was perfect.
Its true…every day of the year is “Kid’s Day.” Yesterday was my favorite Father’s Day with my dad because we got to share the experience together. I remember him teaching me to swim, playing games with me, and also how we gave him some time off to just relax. I thought Father’s Day was just about the relaxing part…but after my morning of napping I got itchy feet and wanted to do something fun with my kids. I wanted to feel like a dad on Father’s Day. There is no finer feeling than having fun with your child and feeling them hug you. As I tucked Max in to bed 2 hours past his bedtime he told me, unprompted, that he loved me. He looked me right in the eyes and said, “I love you Dada.” Nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. I squeezed him tight and asked if he had a fun Father’s Day? He said, “Yup, let’s do it again tomorrow.” I explained it was once a year and then I asked him a question I should have asked when the day began, “Max, do you know what Father means?” He had no idea. I explained that “Father” is another word for “Dada.” He replied, “…and Mama is the other father.” No,” I explained, “Mama is the mother.” You could see him realize what Mother’s Day had been all about and what Father’s Day meant. He hugged me once more and whispered in my ear, “I love you Dada…Mama’s my sweetheart.” I called Kate into the room and asked him to repeat what he had just said and he did, “You’re my sweetheart Mama.” Best feeling ever!!! There is no better feeling than knowing your child loves you…but hearing it means all the world.
Mom…Dad…I love you. I know you have taken on the roles of being grandparents to my and my sister’s kids but you will always be our parents. Mom, you are MY sweetheart. Dad, I will always go night swimming with you. I love you both and I can’t thank you enough for spending my childhood teaching me how to be a parent now. I am simply following your example and in return…my sons love me. Thank you. Happy Father’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day. Every day is kids day…but it should be Parent’s Day. I love you.
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