Good Hair

Dip the cup into the water and fill it up. Gently place my palm against his forehead to avoid spilling into his eyes. Slowly pour over his head. Repeat until completely saturated. Add conditioner. Rinse. Add leave-in conditioner. Then, with Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet, Joe Duplantier of Gojira, or Devin Townsend of Strapping Young Lad punctuating the background, the ritual starts.

Slowly, methodically, my fingers snake through his curls, catching on knots and tangles. There’s much work to be done tonight since bicycle helmets have their own unique way of adding to the nest of tangle-opolis. And sometimes he’s not as amenable to this 10-minute exercise in patience, so in some ways it feels like the clock is ticking here. Yet I find myself enjoying it. My hands move in seemingly random yet fully intentional patterns. Extract the curls with my fingers, find the knot, slowly yet precisely unwrap the strands. After doing this nearly every bath for at least the past 2 years I no longer need to focus; I can meld the movements and the music into one.

I love everything about his hair. The curious intersection of tight ringlets and loose waves. The thick, gentle knot he’s weaved just behind his left ear from constantly twirling his finger through. That it can turn into this beautiful, voluminous afro when it’s both wet and dry, curls falling gently over his ears and down his forehead. I can only hope he loves his hair as much as I do.

But then it hits me. As much as I want him to take pride in his hair, there are millions of people who haven’t or don’t. People have been scorned, shamed, bullied, beaten, and even killed because of this hair, the roots of its culture, and the illogical and unfounded threat it supposedly represents. Generations of children, women, and men have seen this hair as “unnatural”, as something broken to be “fixed” in order to look pretty, to look human in the eyes of others. Billions of dollars are spent every year on products designed to make this hair – a natural gift – look like “white hair” to avoid being seen as the other, a reject, an outcast.

This is something I’ve never had to live through and not something I want my son to experience. And yet I need to accept that he most probably will, especially if we stay in this little town where we live much longer. This is one of many lessons we will have to teach him about acceptance, being accepted, and loving who you are and from where you come. These lessons may be difficult as I acknowledge the world we live in but above all else he can look to me and his mother for wisdom, guidance, and support.

But even then isn’t it much easier for me to lead by example when I, as a cis white man, am the least likely to be oppressed? Even as his advocate, defender, and protector, will he not eventually turn to me and say, “Dad, you can never understand what it’s like to be me”? And for me to then have to painfully admit that I can’t??? Can I ever be more than a parent, an educator, a safe harbor, and a comforter?

Then a literal splash of water hits my face, preventing me from exploring these real-yet-philosophical depths further. This water is cold which signals the end of bath time. I open the drain, slowly lift my son out of the tub, and wrap a towel around him.

I watch the tiny droplets of water bead up and dangle at the end of his corkscrew curls, unaware neither of the safe space from whence they came nor the cold reality of the hard bathroom floor they will meet when they fall. I pull my son in close and hug him tightly; this is a metaphor for everything.

Advertisements

Three.

My Baby Boy,

You’re not much of a baby anymore. You’re not even really a toddler either. You’re blossoming into a pre-schooler, a boy all your own. Strong, fierce, independent, and fearless, you have boundless energy to explore the unknown with bright, wide eyes. It’s been utterly amazing to see you grow and develop into the person you are. Some of my favorite moments are our conversations, hugs, kisses, and cuddles. And every time you say “I love you Daddy” or “you’re my special friend”, my heart fills even larger with love. I really didn’t know my heart would keep growing this much this fast with love, but it is.

As much as you are changing and growing I feel myself growing right along with you. Pushing each other is how we learn. We try, we fall, and we get back up together. We may have our tough moments but know you are loved, you are safe, and I will always be there for you. I will lead the way if you need me to and follow when you ask. I will lift you up, break down walls for you, and be in your corner even when the entire world is against you.

This year will be full of fun and exciting things; I can feel it. A beacon of hope and light in the world – go forth and shine, bringing happiness and joy to all in your life.

Happy Birthday Baby Boy.

I love you.

photo-oct-26-7-52-41-pm

Go.

I’m out of breath, hunched over with hands on knees, sweat dripping down my face. My son is staring at me wide-eyed with a smile on his face, green bicycle helmet planted squarely on his head. “That was fun, Daddy!” he shouts with exuberance.

He’s just finished a harrowing cruise on his balance bike down the hill toward the main road in our neighborhood. He was flying so fast that I couldn’t keep up with him “running” full speed (I put running in quotes because what I do is more like a close approximation to actual running). All I could do is watch him pull away from me with a healthy acidic gut mixture of joy, pride, fear, and panic. Thankfully, the combination of his foot braking and a well-placed sidewalk curb kept him from careening into traffic, but still, the feeling of losing control was all too real.

And for me, that loss of control is one of the most bittersweet things. How on earth, at younger than 3 years old, is he ready for full-speed no-fear bike riding? He’s got the balance part down which is mind-blowingly amazing, but can he really process all the inputs about speed, control, balance, steering, terrain, traffic, and trajectory, all the while leaving me in the dust? Apparently the answer is a resounding yes.

So as fearful as I am of the unknown, about not keeping up with him, I am also incredibly proud. He’s doing this all on his own with no guidance from me other than how to stay safe. He’s falling, getting right back up, and hopping back on the bike while saying “try again”, all without any prompting from me! The kid is a fearless warrior, and I now see my job with much more clarity. I need to give him more opportunities to explore, to push himself, to venture into the unknown, all while ensuring he knows I will catch him when he falls, that I will comfort him, patch him back up, and walk right back out there with him.

To that end, I’ve dusted off my running shoes so I can keep up. Nothing like seeing your toddler put some asphalt between us on a bicycle to remind you of how out of shape you are. Also, he’s ready for a 2-wheeler without training wheels, so that will be coming in the near future. He’s definitely earned it. Considering I didn’t get rid of my training wheels until I was close to 9 or 10 years old, this kid is kicking my ass already. And that’s what I want, right? I want him to be better than I ever was, better than I ever will be.

The world is your playground, my son. Let’s hit it.

img_4858

 

Navigate.

Picture the scene. I arrive home from work, unlock the front door, and step inside. Immediately I hear the frustrated cry of my 2-1/2 year old son as I see him running toward me with sadness on his face and tears in his eyes. Mom isn’t home and Grandpa looks on, despairingly, from a distance. “He just woke up from a nap and started crying, not sure what’s wrong,” he says.

It’s clear that all the usual remedies have failed, and I know Grandpa has tried his hardest. My son isn’t crying hard, but certainly crying enough for us to not understand what he’s trying to say. I pick him up and offer the usuals: Snack? Water? Toys? How’s the diaper doing? It needs to be changed but I know he’ll have none of it right now. The last thing we both need is a dirty diaper battle on top of this.

We retreat upstairs to his room, one of his comfort spaces. I still can’t understand what he’s saying but I see that look of desperation and in his eyes. “Help me,” his eyes tell me, fighting back panic. “Please figure out what’s wrong and fix it.” I’ve seen this look before, and briefly my mind flashes back to the times when he was just an infant and all I could do was meet his eyes with panic of my own. I certainly had no idea what to do back then so we both learned together the hard way.

But this time is different. I’ve learned and grown as a parent. “Do you want a hug?” I ask softly. I hear a murmur through the sniffling that sounds like a yes. So standing there in the center of his room, with him still in my arms, I hold him close, his cheek to my chest. With one frail arm wrapped around my neck and one around my side, I start slowly rocking back and forth, just like bedtime when he was younger. No words, no songs, just the gentle rocking he’s known his entire life.

Slowly, I feel him relax, his breathing calmer, tears no more. He woke up with some pretty big and scary emotions for his little self. Being a toddler is hard enough when things are going well, let alone when these giant invisible forces take over your mind and body. Did he want his usual snack and water after waking up from a nap? Absolutely. But his mood jammed him up with a vengeance, and he didn’t know how to navigate those dark waters.

He knows now that I can be his boat, gently rocking in the waves, soft warm blanket around him, guiding him to shore with a calm yet bright light showing the way.

Grief and Love

We had to euthanize Sandy, our sweet, beautiful, 8-year-old family dog this week. She had cancer. It probably started in her abdomen or bladder and rapidly spread to her lungs. When she was diagnosed the vet said she had 6-8 weeks to live. She made it a little over 2 before we did the right thing and said our goodbyes. She was a wonderful companion and friend, not only to my wife and I but to our son as well. She loved him dearly and they grew on each other. Lately, “I love Sandy” would spring forth from my son’s mouth along with some gentle hugs. A Boy and His Dog indeed.

Trenton & Sandy

Photo Dec 26, 3 17 29 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo May 25, 5 17 50 PM

As hard as it was for us to go through this, my wife and I made a conscious effort to guide my 2-1/2 year old son through it as well. This required much more strength than I ever thought I had, but I wanted my son to understand what was happening and know that we were here for him. Here’s what else I wanted him to know:

The truth. We tried very hard to explain to him exactly what was happening so he wouldn’t feel blindsided later. I also wanted him “Sandy is very sick and in pain. Mommy and Daddy are going to take her to the vet and say goodbye. She is going to be euthanized and die so she won’t hurt anymore. She won’t be coming back home.”

It’s OK to be sad and cry.Mommy and Daddy are sad,” was the observation repeated quite a bit over the past 2 weeks. “Yes, we are.”

Emotions are scary. It’s OK to work through them however you need to. We will be patient, loving, and understanding as you work through your feelings and realize what’s happening.

We help each other through the bad times. As a family we’re all in this together and we need each other to get through it.

Our pets are family. When they hurt, we hurt. We love them like we love each other.

We must do the right thing for our loved ones even if it hurts us. Euthanasia is a gift we can give the animals we love. We surely will experience pain, grief, and loss, but this is the right thing to do when our pets are faced with suffering.

We will cherish the memories. All the photos, videos, and experiences of the happy times. We will celebrate Sandy’s life in all the happiness and love that it was.

Goodbye my sweet Sandy. We love you.

Photo May 24, 4 37 42 PM

 

 

 

 

To Be Kind

Kindness is a virtue always best practiced but starts with modeling and teaching. I’ve been taking some mental notes lately about the behaviors and values I want to instill in my son. Here are just a few in no particular order that are near  and dear to my heart. Feel free to add your own in the comments; the more kindness in this world the better off we will all be!

1)Basic manners. Please, thank you, yes/no sir/ma’am, excuse me, bless you, I’m sorry, the list goes on. Let’s start with the basics and go from there.

2) Empathy. Admittedly I am not as good at this as I want to be, but I try to remember that everyone is fighting their own internal battles.

3) Sharing. Not just with toys and things you have, but with things other people do not have. To quote the great Louis C.K., “You should not look in your neighbor’s bowl to see how much they have, but rather to see if they have enough.”

4) Say Hello. My son currently has no problem with this, but that’s because it’s natural at 2 years old. As we become older this openness tends to fade. I can’t tell you how many people won’t say “hello” back when I greet them in the hallways at work; some won’t even make eye contact. I do it from time-to-time as well when I’m just not feeling people, but in order to keep my son’s momentum rolling I need to lead by example.

5) Acknowledge your privilege and use it to help the persecuted. I completely understand White Privilege. My son is in a very unique situation as a biracial child in that his racial identity can be fluid and adapt to his environment. While this could certainly be exploited for selfish reasons, I would rather foster a sense of empowerment and obligation to connect with both sides of his racial identity and obliterate White Privilege for everyone. [Sidebar: This topic is probably worth a separate blog post on its own.]

6) Use emotions to connect. Emotions are extremely powerful, especially shared emotions. Connecting with people on an emotional level tends to get lost in this ever-digital world of Instant Messages, auto-erasing chat sessions, and social feed algorithms designed to mainline your preferences straight to your neural core. Let’s look people straight in the eyes again and attempt to read their souls. [Personal Note: I really need to stop constantly checking my f0cking iPhone status.]

That’s it for now; not exactly a full “Top 10” but that’s where YOU come in! Add yours in the comments so we can help this generation create a kinder and gentler world.

Dora Duck Drowns in the Pond

Reading children’s books is fun. I admire writers who can keep kids excited while also keeping adults engaged. But every once in awhile you find a book that is so bad you want to set fire to it and watch all the characters die a slow, painful death. Here’s a page-by-page commentary on one of my least favorites, Dora Duck Goes for a Swim.

Photo Jul 07, 10 51 40 AM

Dora Duck is out on this bright, sunny day. And she’s hoping some fun will come her way. “There must be something exciting I can do. I’ll search the garden and the meadow, too.”

Photo Jul 07, 10 51 52 AM.jpg

Cool! Nice to meet you, Dora! There’s always something to do when the weather is nice. Let’s explore together!

“Come and have fun with me and my ball of wool!” “Thank you, Kitten, but your paws look quite full.”

Photo Jul 07, 10 52 00 AM.jpg

Yeah, balls of wool aren’t really my thing either. And especially for you since you only have 2 feet. Way to be polite, Dora!

“You can come and chase my ball with me.” “That’s what puppies do best, but not ducks like me.”

Photo Jul 07, 10 52 07 AM

Sure, puppies are good at chasing balls. But how do you know if you’ve never tried? I think you should give it a try here, Dora.

“Come on, Duck, let’s bounce and spring.” “It looks like fun, but it’s not my kind of thing.
Photo Jul 07, 10 52 14 AM

Are you sure, Dora? You were desperate for things to do on this bright, sunny day and now you’re gonna buzzkill the rabbit’s idea because it’s “not your thing”? Well what exactly is your thing, Dora?

“Grab some sticks and build a nest with me.” “I’d like to, Bird, but I can’t climb trees.”

Photo Jul 07, 10 52 23 AM

What the hell? You know who else can’t climb trees? This Bird. He flies, and so can you, Dora. Or maybe you’re suspicious because he’s asking you for free labor to build his house? Even so, weak ass excuse, Dora.

“You can hop with me on all fours!” “Sorry, Frog, but I don’t have legs like yours.”

Photo Jul 07, 10 56 18 AM

I’m getting real sick of your shit, Dora. I would have had fun with all your friends by now. I bet you’re the last one to find out about the neighborhood block party.

“Join me, Duck, let’s dig a hole.” “It’s not what I do, but have fun, Mole!”

Photo Jul 07, 10 56 26 AM

Notice how Mole wasn’t even excited that you showed up, Dora? He overheard your lame-ass excuses with your other friends. I bet he wants to push you in that hole.

“There must be something for me to do. But I don’t seem to have a clue. What is it that ducks do best? I suppose I’ll have to try and guess!”

Photo Jul 07, 10 56 33 AM

Fuck you, Dora. You just had ALL YOUR FRIENDS give you fantastic suggestions for what to do on a great summer day. And you STILL have no idea what to do? Seriously, fuck you. 

“Why, silly Duck! We know just the thing for you to do on this bright, sunny day. Come and join us in the pond and paddle and splash away.”

Photo Jul 07, 10 56 39 AM

So you wasted time and shit on all your friends’ ideas just to hang out in the pond with your other duck buddies? You’re a real asshole, Dora.

Now please excuse me while I go use Dora to start my barbecue grill.