“I want to have more kids,” I said.
My wife looked like somebody had poked her in the throat. She fought to keep the car on the road. She looked at me like I farted in church.
“You heard me,” I said. “I want to have more kids.”
“Uh, no,” she said. “You still have children. Eli will be gets out of school at 4 pm. You will have more children then.”
I sank into the seat. She didn’t understand. We just dropped Eli off for his first day of the summer session at Montessori. Charlie starts summer camp on Monday. In the fall he will start third grade and Eli will continue in Montessori. What my wife doesn’t understand is that Dads become considerably less cool once kids start school. Even though he is only 3, Eli has started school. Montessori is Italian for touchy-feely school.
It’s true. Once a child starts school, Dad’s aura of unfailing knowledge and complete supremacy starts to wain. They find out other Dads can burp the alphabet and back into parking spaces and pee outside and other cool stuff. OK, if you have daughters you probably don’t do a lot of peeing outside . . . but you get my point. it’s just not the same.
I remember when Charlie started kindergarten. We picked him up and were driving home. “Hey Charlie . . . listen to this,” I said. I then proceeded to make it to T in an alphaburp . . . burping the alphabet to the uninitiated. I’ve done better, but it was pretty good for being none soda-aided.
“Gross Dad,” Charlie said with real disgust. “Say ‘excuse me’ please, that is disgusting.”
“You thought it was funny a few days ago . . . .”
“My teacher and mommy say burping is impolite.”
No surprise there, his mom has always been against sport burping, she doesn’t have the same appreciation for the diaphragm control required to be competitive. Until this point Charlie and I traded burps like champs despite his mom’s protests . . . but now his teacher didn’t approve and my esteem was slipping by the minute.
Eli was about 6 months old when Charlie started school and he still thought I was really cool. I was still the guy who checked under the bed for crocodiles and chased monsters out of the closet. When I quit work to stay home with him a year and a half ago, I became bigger than life. I was the giver of lunch and piggy back rides. I could bait a hook and make a fish appear. I made knees feel better after being bumped and sang “Hound Dog” at nap time time. I was his hero. Now he was in touchy-feely school finding out that I am just another guy.
This happened before. My oldest son Parker learned I was a mere mortal when he started school. But that was different. It’s hard to explain but it was different because i saw Parker coming. I knew from an early age that I would one day have a son and he would be like me. I just knew. It was the way of things. When Parker was born it was like waiting for an old friend. For five years he was my single focus in life. I knew what would happen and what was coming. When he started school and began to need me less, I understood. I knew it would happen.
Eli and Charlie are different. I never saw them coming. Before I remarried in 2003, I thought my baby days were done. I didn’t think about it much, I just never thought I would get the opportunity to be a little kid’s hero again. I got a second chance at fatherhood and I have been thanking God every day since.
It’s much harder to let go of that this time around. My baby days are done for real. I’ll always be their father, but I won’t be “Daddy” any more. Maybe that’s my real issue with sending Eli to school . . . it marks the time a father stops being “Daddy” and starts being “Dad”.
We picked Eli up at school this afternoon. He ran across the playground and hugged his mommy. He told her about eating his lunch and using his cup and sleeping on his mat. He proudly pointed out that he didn’t poop his pants. He didn’t even nod my direction. Not surprising . . . I’ve seen this before. It’s just the way things are.
On the way home we stopped for drinks. Charlie had a sports drink and my wife and I had diet sodas. As a special treat Eli got some diet soda in a cup. He sipped as we drove. We pulled into the garage and I helped Eli out of his seat. I put him down and he burped loudly.
“Ha Ha,” he laughed. “Soda make Eli burp. That’s funny.” He laughed a beautiful three-year-old belly laugh. “Did you hear Eli burp loud?”
“Yes, I did buddy.”
“That’s funny, dad.” Dad . . . not Daddy.
After dinner and baths my wife put Eli to bed. She wasn’t successful. I took him by the hand and led him back upstairs. I tucked him in and made sure he had his Barbie, his blanket and his hockey gloves. Yes hockey gloves . . . it’s a long story.
I told him I loved him and turned to leave.
“Yes, buddy?” I turned and he was sitting up with his arms outstretched.
“I want to hug you, Daddy.”
I knelt by his bed and put my arms around him. He put head on my shoulder. “I missed you, Daddy.”
I will be Dad for the rest of my life, but tonight I am still Daddy. I’ll take it.
Thanks for reading and I will see you again soon on This Side of the Diaper.