Monday, January 14, 2013

Who'll Watch the Parade?

I made the classic syllogistic mistake; I joined a club that would have me as a member.  There's a group of Blogger Dad's on Facebook and I find myself included in their ranks.  I posted about them before in this post which has links to some truly great blogs.  Really, I am not sure I am in the right spot.  Compared to some of the other dudes' blogs, mine is amatuer at best, and, I would guess to some of them, pedestrian and dull.

I made a decision to be pedestrian and dull, which I would define maybe as ordinary and thoughtful.  I choose not to take political sides, or discuss religion except in vague non-committal references; I choose not to make tawdry anatomical references or cuss regularly and vehemently; I choose to leave out my college years and struggles with addiction and loneliness.  Also, I choose not to make fun of my kids or write things that they someday might find embarrassing or difficult to understand.

There is no doubt that these are great subjects for bloggers, and, I often wish that I too could, through the veil of anonymity, pursue some of them.  But, if you want to know the truth, I find that kind of posting a little too, well, easy.  It's easy to rant about football and men-hating Mommy Bloggers.  It's easy to make p*nis jokes and rely on sexual innuendo.  It's easy to link-bait and stir up controversy and vitriol and animosity.

(Yeah, this is why I shouldn't join groups; I don't play well with others.)

On the other hand, I think it is difficult, especially for men, to write about their deep love for their children.  Through the words of some of my fellows I have felt the pain of knowing your child is sick.  Through their words I have known the belly laugh that is parenting a toddler, the heartbreak of preschool, the smell of baby shampoo lost, the last diaper.

Writing about love and tenderness is difficult, writing with respect and wonder is difficult.  Acknowledging the pains and joys of fatherhood is a noble, gentle, difficult endeavor.  I will continue to celebrate my children, honor their childhood and remember them as they are today.

After that long intro I wonder if I should even get to the point or just call it a day...

The other evening, I guess it was a Friday, we had leftovers for dinner, you know, a little bit of this, a dab of that.  The boys hate it, but, there is almost always pasta, that's a good thing.  Nick is a fast eater (I try not to look, it's sorta gross) and, after he took his plate and such to the kitchen, he grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and started drawing.  Z was soon done and he did the same.  After the dishes were cleaned up Marci and I joined them at the table and started drawing along, laughing and chattering and teasing and, well, being a family.

We actually do this with some frequency, just sit at the table and doodle, you know, stuff like this Picasso inspired sketch Z started and that Mom filled in:

Marci also likes to make these adorable wordle thingees, with suggestions from the boys:

Nick made these two owls, a jazz owl and an orchestra owl, I'm not positive who's who:

Zack makes stuff like this, a Ninja guy with a regrettable chest-piece, and a cruise ship:

Nick made this curious pictures of some "Littles" listening to what appears to be a Victrola, I don't know:

I tend more to photo-realism:

I know, these are all masterpieces, right?  Well, not really.  I guess to some they might seem sorta stupid.  But, I'll bet, in ten or twenty or thirty years when these picture reappear, they will remember those simple nights of crafting and drawing, of dance-parties and wrestling, of singing and silliness, fondly.  I know I will.

I guess to some this all seems ordinary... yep, that's my point.

I really and truly believe that in our twentieth-first century pursuit of, how to say this politely, of Pinterest perfection, we step right over the ordinary.  We leave it unacknowledged, neglected and forgotten and we fail profoundly at recognizing its inherent, even paramount, importance.

A better blogger than I, Rachel, wrote a blog post a while back explaining far more eloquently than I the importance of the ordinary.  In "A year of Ordinary Achievement" she explains that her journey from frazzled techno-junky to "Hands Free Mama" has led her to a profound and deep understanding of the quiet, gentle love that is the ordinary.  I have long agreed with her on the notion that the modern devices, cell phones, computers, video games and all the bells and whistles and tweets and twitters that accompany them, as well as the time so many spend managing them, are an invasion of the precious time we have with our children, families and friends.

So, along with Rachel and Neal and Justin and John and Chris and Matt and so many others, I ask you to celebrate the simple, the plain, the sublime, the beautiful, the holy, that is the ordinary - because, I think, that's where love lives.

I grew up in a small rural town here in Ohio and every summer they had a community festival.  All the civic groups and bands and veterans and business had a float, pulled by a tractor, or marched in the parade.  The kids in town, and parents and whoever, really, were invited to decorate their bikes and ride, in an incredibly unruly mob, in the parade as well.

One year, I was maybe nine or ten, I was decorating my bike for the festival and my Dad was watching.  I suggested that he should decorate a bike or march with the church float or something and he said:

"If everyone is in it, who'll watch the parade?"

You were right Dad.  I'll watch the parade.

From Marci's  "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

N: "George Washington is in the refrigerator."

Z: "And Martin Luther King is stuck on our roof."

Now that's just weird...


  1. Preach it brother. I love the things that the kids make and sometimes have a hard time parting with some of the stuff we make together. I like that you are celebrating the ordinary because sometimes the ordinary becomes the extraordinary because of the quality time you spent together. Keep up the good work!

    1. I find great comfort preaching to the choir and you, my man, are lead bari. Thank you for these words here and thank you for the tone of reverence and humor your blog balances so well. I am pleased you could stop by.

  2. Very well written. You are quickly becoming one of my favorites, along with DKL, and Hands Free.

    I find very few things can match the beauty and perfection of the ordinary times with my boys. I love to begin our days by rocking out to "Layla" in the car - a 14 year old boy/man, his 5 year old brother, and their 34 year old mom, all instantly becoming air guitar gods.

    And being from New Orleans, I have never passed on an opportunity to watch a parade. I can always be found on the neutral ground, in whatever ridiculous get-up my boys have picked for me.

    1. You are so right jamie (no caps, I love it), the ordinary stuff is what shapes kids and saturates their souls. The great successes are fleeting, I know that, painful memories fade, but the ordinary lives in us, grows in us and nurtures us.
      Thanks for stopping by, as you probably have guessed I am a huge fan of Rachel at "Hands Free" and I have guest-posted on DKL. I am not sure I would put myself in the same sentence with those two, but, thanks all the same.

  3. I just have to say there is nothing ordinary about the way you write, express your feelings for your children, celebrate the exquisite moments in the every day. What I love about your blog is that it is not flashy, nor controversial, but it has heart. And I have come to appreciate HEART in this world that is so consumed with the external -- how it "looks," rather than what's inside. It is blogs like yours where great thought is put into each beautifully written word that gives me HOPE. This is a man who loves and he is raising boys who will grow into men who love. There is nothing more extraordinary than that.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Rachel, I don't know where you find enough kindness in you heart to spread around as you do. Your words "This is a man who loves and he is raising boys who will grow into men who love" are so very tender, thank you.

  4. Well, I don't know... I've never been comfortable with the media or with anyone deciding what men are supposed to be. I don't grill, I don't eat bacon, and I only watch football now because I live in a football city and I get swept along with the playoffs excitement. So I understand your frustration with the idea that you're supposed to be something you're not, but to be honest, the group is what you make it. It's been up for just over a month, after all. And if the word p*nis offends you to the point where you can't skip to a different thread, the Internet is a very small place...

    At the same time, there have been no political or religious arguments, if there's been belittling comments about kids--I haven't seen those, and I actually haven't seen anything mean being said about mom-bloggers too. Where did you find vitriol and animosity? I honestly believe there's room in that group for many types of people writing many types of blogs. I hope you stick around.

    1. I meant no offense at anyone in particular, and I certainly meant no offense to the group. I intend to stick around. Sometimes I try to be self-effacing and fail miserably. My apologies.

  5. The simple pleasures of family. We make more of a point with our families when we're not making a point than when we are. Those times, like a night of drawing - those are the things that stay with us...which is funny, since to kids, it won't hit them for years.

    As for the group thing - well, hell. We appreciate you there because the more points of view we've got, the better. There are guys there with exciting blogs and dull blogs (which really is up to the audience, not the writers). There are guys there who curse on their blogs and some who don't. And there are some who talk about stereotypically "male" topics and some who are all over the map. But, that's what makes the group good.

    1. I agree about the fact that the things that stay with us won't hit us for years, I think that's true for me even now.
      I truly enjoy the group and mean no ill-will towards it.

  6. You joke but I seriously don't think I belong in the same conversation as YOU. Your writing is way more extraordinary than anything I've ever come up with. Lets pull up our folding chairs and watch the parade together.

    1. You make me blush. Your blog is such a wonderful celebration of your kids, your life really, and was one of the first to inspire me to go forward with mine.

      My chair's got an umbrella, oh, and I brought a cooler...

  7. My mother-in-law is constantly criticizing our chosen way of life. She even once said I've ruined my childrens lives, when I chose the simple life over the life she tried to shove down our throats in the big city, where my husband was raised. However, I know without a doubt my kids are happy- we may not have all the "opportunities" she claims to have offered us- but if given the chance to do it all over, dammit if I wouldn't choose "ordinary" every single time.

    I don't find your blog ordinary. I agree with dadncharge that "I like that you are celebrating the ordinary because sometimes the ordinary becomes the extraordinary because of the quality time you spent together"

    There is no better way in my eyes- definitely why you've become one of my fav bloggers.

    1. Thank you for stopping by. I feel in the minority on this point, everyone wants their kids to be extraordinary, but then, who'd sit in the bleachers and watch the game.

  8. Enjoyed this, Bill. Many lessons here for me about the importance of keeping perspective, and remembering what matters. Reminds me of that country song, which I've thought of before when some adventure takes me away from home for too long, "I miss my son, I miss my wife, and my ordinary life." Thanks.