Wednesday, March 4, 2015

One Braid At A Time

"Hey, babe?  I need to learn how to braid so I can do the girls hair. Can you show me?"

These words could have easily been followed by the sound of a needle sliding off a record player.  And in many homes, it probably would have.

But not ours.

Here, it is as common as it being Daddy's turn to cook, or to give the girls a bath, or to iron his own clothes.

And honestly, it's not because I've made a big deal about any of it. It's all him.  And it's amazing.  Not just because it gets me out of ironing extra clothes so I can work on my crush on all of the firemen on Chicago Fire without any distraction.  But because when he busted out the ironing board last week and I offered to do it for him, he said:

"It's important that the girls see my ironing my own clothes, babe.  They need to see that this is something men can do."

Uh.  YEA IT IS.  Because also?  This Daddy?  The one ironing his pink shirt out in front of God and everyone?  The one who wants to learn how to braid?  This Daddy also single-handedly lifted 20 tons of asphalt and concrete onto a trailer with nothing but his hands (and a lot of blood, sweat and cursing) during our remodel.  This Daddy helped build a river in town.  This Daddy brings home river bugs for the girls to play with.  This Daddy bought his girls fishing poles for Christmas and works with them on their cast technique. This Daddy is teaching his daughters how to ride a bike without training wheels. This Daddy built a room in our house by himself.  You know... the one I get all the credit for because everyone likes how I painted the bricks?

And this Daddy?  He wants to learn how to braid his girls' hair.

So, we sat The Bean down and I showed him how to do a French braid.  I explained that he could tell it was French because it was stylish and snobby.  Because I love stereotypes. And because I've convinced The Bean that having her hair done to look like a sister-wife is super stylish.  And snobby.  And it looks gooood.

The French braid was a bit too complicated for him at this early stage in the game.  But I reminded him that this is also how you can tell it's French... its complexity.  Like a fine wine and... Oh... look!  Another stereotype!

So, we decided that he should focus his efforts on mastering a regular braid.  I may have made fun of encouraged him by noting that if he can tie a fly, he can most certainly braid our daughters' hair and "Seriously babe... what's wrong with your hands?  Have you always lacked dexterity or did your hands get run over by a truck??"

Despite my taunting With my encouragement, he actually caught on to the technique pretty quickly, although his large hands and fingers weren't quite as nimble as they need to be to deal with fine hair like The Bean's.  But, he compensated and pretty soon he was on a roll.

The Bean, who is usually adamant that her braid look like she's a sister-wife, was perfectly content to let Daddy do some... things to her hair.  And she was beyond thrilled with how it turned out since she got more than one braid and "I WUV deez bwaidz, Mama!!"  Needless to say, it didn't go over well with her later that night when I explained that we would need to take all of the braids out for her shower.  But that's what vodka is for.

I drew a little pic for The Bean after she was done.  She took one look at it and exclaimed:  "It wooks wike MEEEE!"  Because I'm a good artist and also... because it does.

She then asked me to draw Waldo and I'll be damned if I actually didn't do a semi-decent job. Although in reality, he should have had vapors coming out of his butt because... you know.

But, I digress with my fancy artwork.  The Bird was so pleased that Daddy was working on her hair.  And not just because of the Daddy worship that she practices 24/7.  Only MOSTLY because of that.  Seriously, given the choice between being a princess living in a castle made of chocolate, or having a Daddy-Daughter fishing date in the rain, she'll choose Daddy every. single. time.  (Although she would insist on wearing her princess dress while fishing.  Because what is she?  An animal?)

Since his dexterity had improved in the 20 minutes it took to do The Bean's hair, The Bird's hair was finished rather quickly and looked marvelous.

I'm telling you, this little girl loves her Daddy more than anything in this whole world.  More than ice cream. More than Monster High. More than the braids he gave her.  And she LOVED those.

And honestly, he's either spoiling her for other men, or doing exactly what he needs to do to make sure she doesn't bring home a loser. Either way works for me.

It takes a special man to raise daughters.  It takes an even more special man to understand that what they see him do and say every day, how he treats them every day, how he treats their Mommy every day... THAT is what they will expect from the other men that eventually come into their lives.

So, let's talk about stereotypes.  Not the French stereotypes. Those are for my own twisted amusement and very much showcase my inner Republican. Aha!  Another stereotype!  I'm on a roll!!!

Let's talk about the stereotypes we hear all of the time about men and what being a real man is.  The kind that say that men have to be macho. That it isn't their responsibility to cook or clean. That they don't have as much responsibility in raising daughters as mothers do. That what they think or do or say carries more weight than their wives thoughts and actions. That their worth is defined by their strength or the paycheck they bring home, rather than what they do with their family every day.  That girls don't have as much potential as boys.

These stereotypes.. they're simply not true.

And this man?  He knows it. 

This man... the one that felt it was important to learn how to braid, the one who supports this Mommy in everything she does and dreams of doing, the one who irons his own pink shirts, the one who will color with The Bean while helping The Bird do her homework, the one that will go into work late because he feels like he hasn't had enough time with his kids, the one who they tackle every night when he walks in the door, the one who can fall asleep while they are using him as a trampoline, the one who can fix anything from an owie on their toe, to a toy that isn't working, to a sprinkler system to a freakin' house.

This man is the definition of what a man should be. This man shatters stereotypes.  And in the process, is raising daughters that like him, are going to change the world.

One braid at a time.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Pre-K Bean

The Bean has been going through a rough patch for the last few months.  She's been defiant and bull-headed in a way that makes bulls seem somewhat reasonable and even-keeled... someone you'd consider inviting out to Girls Night.

At first, we thought it was just a phase... that she would grow out of it. But it's been like a bad case of plantar fasciitis (I happen to know a little about that)... that's gotten worse and more inflammed and even alcohol can't help it.  And I am honestly at the end of my very, very long rope with her.

We've tried everything.  Reasoning... choice and consequence... sending her to her room... taking away her blankie... out right yelling... threatening to give Waldo away (yea, I sooooo went there)... and even threatening to leave her at gymnastics overnight because she refused to put on her pants and shoes after class when it was time to go. 

Five points if you can you spot the slow spiral down to Insanity Parenting.

Her teacher has been flummoxed as well.  She's pulled me aside several times and asked what type of things work for us when she's being so defiant and I was all: "Dude!  Don't ask me!!!  I threatened to give the cat away last night... I'm bottom of the barrel here!"

Yesterday was another rough day for her in school and she got an incident report for being.. well, a general asshole to everyone at school and was sent to the equivalent of the Principal's Office at the day care.  Great... she's THAT kid.

After signing off on the report and taking my copy, I walked into her room where she was playing with her little friends.  She saw me and did her usual routine of: "Yay!  Mama's here!" while clapping her hands and jumping up and down.  Which is hands down the best greeting you can ever ask for, but I digress.

I looked at her and held up the folded piece of yellow paper that was the copy of the report.  And this child's demeanor changed mid-jump and clap.  She lowered her chin down to her chest and wouldn't make eye contact.  Her response was exactly like Bonnie's response when I catch her eating underwear.  I didn't have to say a word.  She knew.  SHE KNOWS SHE'S SCREWING UP.  Which means there's legitimately something going on here... not just the Being An Asshole Phase I was chalking it up to.

That night, I had a heart-to-heart with her.   In the past, thinking maybe it was a personality conflict with the teacher, I have asked her if she liked her teacher, Ms. Jennifer.  She would always respond that she loved Ms. Jennifer.  Then I would ask her what was wrong... and she would say she didn't know.

Last night, I asked her if she liked her class... because it only takes me four months to try phrasing the question differently... because I'm super on-point like that. She once again hung her head down and shook her head no. 

"Why not?"
With a quivering lip: "Betuz... I'm bored.  There's widdow kids in there and I'm a big girl and everything we do is bowing."
"Oh! Well... you know what? We can put you in a big kid class with older kids."
"You can?"
"Absolutely! Would you like to do that?"
She looked up at me then, with big blue eyes and unshed tears and choked out:
"But... I still wuv Ms. Jennifer!"
"That's okay, sweetie!  She knows you love her... but she knows you're almost four and need to be with the big kids.  And you'll love your new teacher, too!"

At that point, the smile and joy that had been missing from her face whenever the subject of school came up,  returned.  Her smile was so big I thought her face might break and she hugged me around my neck so tightly that I thought I might pass out.

"I wanna go to the big kid class!  And I get to learn things and even have homework, right?"
This morning, I dropped her off at school and she marched right into her new class, no questions asked.  Her only concern was that she didn't have a cubby yet.  "Dude... relax.  We like JUST got here and the decision to bring you into this class happened about 12 hours ago." 

She got over it quickly and grabbed my hand and walked with me to the cafeteria, where she walked right up to her new class, sat down and ate breakfast with all the big kids.  I kissed her, wished her luck, told her to be the best her she could be and that I loved her.  She beamed at me and told me she loved me.

It was the first time in weeks that she hadn't clung to me and sobbed when I left. 

How could I not have figured this out sooner?

Sometimes I don't give The Bean the benefit of the doubt.  She's always been a rascal and she likes to push limits and doesn't always seem congnizant of other people's feelings... and doesn't talk about her feelings.

I should know this by now.  I realize now that she does care and she does love people deeply... she just doesn't wear it on her sleeve like her sister does. 

When I left my little Bean... the one I feel like I need to protect much more than her sissy because I still remember when she came out of me and couldn't breathe... well, she was sitting in that cafeteria, happily eating her breakfast surrounded by new big-kid friends. 

She. Was. Beaming.