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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Father's Day

As father’s Day approaches, I thought I would reflect on a
few thoughts about childbirth and parenting from long ago……

The soft chirp of a bird and the arrival of the sun signal
the start of a new day as my children and I meditate together and practice tai-chi
in perfect unison on an empty, scenic beach. I am part Father/part Yoda as I regularly impart stunning wisdom that my
offspring can instantly apply to real world situations. We eat only what we
need from the land, taking our part in the natural circle of life.  My smart, informed, well-adjusted children and I share the ideal relationship, and our days together near perfection as we
slowly strive for self-actualization and to slowly become one with the universe.  At least that’s how I thought fatherhood would be before I had kids . . .

Abject fear.  That’s what I recall my first synapse contained upon hearing my wife was pregnant.   It wasn’t really a fully formed thought, just a feeling.  Similar
to the feeling I imagine if, in some alternate universe, Charlie Sheen showed
up to escort my daughter to Prom.  It was driven by the self-assessment of my readiness to be responsible for a baby.    I was not confident in my untested abilities that so far had only been so much as responsible for me, and for a few lovely weeks, a goldfish.  My wife Alana, on the other hand, seemed to be ever calm in the eye of the pregnancy storm.  When we got married, I became a
step-father.  I had been growing as a parent from that day on.  But she was
three.  This was going to be a whole other challenge. 
The actual birth? Terrifying.  It’s hard in today’s world not to sit there and think of everything tha t might go wrong.  Is that procedure covered by insurance?  Why isn’t the doctor providing a running
commentary?  But, just like other times throughout the pregnancy, it was time for me to man up and do my part to help her through the birth of our child. After all, she has the hardest part.  As for the birth, I thought we would all sing “Kumbaya” while our child arrived, not covered in blood and afterbirth, but just as speck of light
emerging from my wife or perhaps even floating down from above.  But back in the real world, I learned that life can be messy and beautiful at the same time, a lesson that has only been
reinforced in my life going forward. 

Since that first pregnancy, we have added another child and
layers of complexity to our lives.  We are now responsible for our three kids’ widely varying ideas of what is good.  What my four year old wants to do
my fourteen year old isn’t so keen on, unless we count it as babysitting and
pay her.  We are striving to be good parents by trying to satisfy multiple appetites, interests, and maintain some balance (cookies for breakfast anyone?). Although my confidence has increased, my kids test me in new ways every day.

In that way, I think raising kids can be the ultimate challenge, because parenting is a very inexact science.  Just when you think you have it mastered—something blows up in your face, and you end up thinking perhaps you don’t know anything at all about being a good parent.  Parenting is a messy operation, and there isn’t a single parent in history that is perfect.  It’s humbling in that way.  Kids test you physically, mentally, and emotionally.  They push you to be a
better person, and to strive to be the hero they think you are, at least until
they become teenagers.    They provide their own kind of tough love not by criticizing me or telling me I need to work on my physique, but by the mere fact I know they are counting on me, are part
of me, and the fact that I my actions, along with some help from the miracle of
childbirth, brought them into this world.  Even as they seemingly take, they give. 

Life and parenting as I know it can confound, frustrate,
exhaust, and reward.  It is a mix of many emotions, successes and failures. Instead of our meditation and tai-chi, I find myself shuttling my three
kids to three different activities that happen to start at the same time, only
at three different locations.  But despite the fact that the schedule makers conspire against me (let’s see him get them here on time this week!), we make it work and that’s how we earn our
title.  Not the titles I’m given when I ground my 14 year old, but the title of “Dad”. As the cliché says, “It’s the hardest job in the world, and I wouldn’t
trade it for anything.”  And that’s why on this Father’s Day, I won’t need any gifts. For the ultimate gifts, as well as the ultimate responsibility, were
already given to me on the birthdays of my kids. 

But if a perfectly cooked steak is included in the deal, I
won’t be upset. 

John Pfeiffer is an author and Father of three
beautiful girls.  He enjoys informing,
entertaining, and occasionally getting sidetracked on a philosophical rant with
his readers.  His book, “Dude, You’re
Gonna Be a Dad” is now available online and in bookstores everywhere.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Turn Back the Clock Night.....

I’m getting old. 
This is simply a fact, one that cannot be avoided. It’s harder to get up in the morning, and harder to stay up late at night.  And let’s not even discuss the degree of difficulty of not yawning if I try to GO anywhere during the evening hours.  Work, kids, and life have taken their toll on me, but mostly, it is the work of Father Time.  I don’t really enjoy it, but it happens. 
          The other night I was taking my two daughters to try a new activity at the local “rec”
center, which we have never been to. They heard about it from a friend, and we like to try new things, to here we were.  We paid our money, got directions, and off we went.  As we
entered the doors, I noticed something. 

A basketball court. 

         Not just a court, but a semi-crowded court where, to my ancient eyes, appeared to be a game
of pick-up basketball going on.  For those who do not know, basketball is a game I used to play quite a bit, when I was young.  Quite a bit younger actually.  It appeared these high school-to-college aged
kids were going up and down pretty good.  As I paused to access the competition, one of them invited me into the game.  “hey, old man, we need one more”.  Now of course, the “old man” part was all in
my imagination.  But it is what part of me heard nonetheless.
          After checking with the director that my girls would be fine in there, and assuring
myself that anyone who attempted to make off with my girls would have to cross
the basketball court to exit, I joined the game.  After wishing I had a 70’s style headband in
my pocket and giving brief thought to doing weird stretches and running a few
wind sprints to get loose (Jim Carey in Cable Guy) I decided just to hope no
hamstrings or tendons were on their last miles and stepped onto the court. 
           For non-ballers, in this style of game, everyone takes a player, and you match
up.  Unfortunately, the kid I was assigned looked like he could run all day, loved the weight room, and ate a chicken and egg white only omelet before coming to the gym.  My goodness. After the game had been going on for a few minutes, nothing hurt, so I decided it was time to do something.  Besides, we were losing, and I paid $5.  So I figured I had the right to put up a few shots.  As the ball came to me, my man played off, giving me plenty of room, as I had showed no signs of knowing what I was doing out there.  One dribble, then two, and I launched a three.  SWISH!  Wow, that felt really good.  Then the next time, it came back to me, and he was back there again, giving me room, as if to say I was lucky the first time. I shot, and it went in again.  Hooray for old guys!
           As the game continued, I at least proven dangerous enough for my opposite to actually guard
me.  I felt good, making a few, missing a few, even dribbling off my foot once, a feat (feet) that, viewed ina vacuum, would assure the viewer that I had no athletic ability whatsoever.  As we got to the end, I had to pull out one more move.  It’s the old fake-behind-the-back pass and any of my high school buddies would swear they have seen me do it a million times.  But not these guys.  These guys were either unborn or pooping in their diapers when I perfecting this particular maneuver.  So, when it came to “next point wins” I knew it was time to reach into the bag of tricks.  There I went, and apparently the youth of America still can be tricked by a move invented a long, long, time ago.  As I victoriously went to collect my daughters, I could tell his buddies were giving him a hard time for being schooled by the old guy.  As they walked by, “good game” and all that, he wanted to assure me he was still recovering from knee surgery, I felt implying that once he was at full speed I was in trouble if we ever played again.  “I’m 38” I replied, assuring him that I was at quite an advanced age compared to him, and next time we played I would probably be slower, grumpier, and unable to remember his name.  But for one night it was nice just to relive a little bit of those days of so long ago. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Men and Directions

     Something interesting happened in the Sunday school class that I co-teach (yes, we can
argue about my credentials for teaching Sunday school at another time).  To help pass the time, I mean re-enforce the lesson on this day; my cohort had created a craft project for the
students.  She is very organized, and does a great job.  It came complete with
a kit for each student containing what they needed, along with the
directions.  Stereotypes aside, it did appear by my informal count that the girls got right on it while the guys just kind of stared at the bag, maybe wondering what kind of commotion would ensue
if they inflated it and stomped on it sending beads and string into the
atmosphere.  That’s when the most interesting thing happened.  Not thirty
seconds after he had received his kit, one of my students approached me and
said, “What do I do?”  I replied, “Just look at the directions.”  To which he sniffed,
paused, and said, “I DON’T read directions.” 
                Several thoughts occurred in my sleepy Sunday brain. But the first one out of the mouth was, “So what do you do in
school?  I bet you read them at school.”  “Nope. I always just ask.  I NEVER read
directions.”  This took me a second to process.  Maybe this was the evolution of
man.  Instead of refusing to ASK for directions, he simply had evolved to refusing to even GET directions in the first place.  Instead, he relied on whomever was fortunate enough to be in the area, and seemed to have some sort of clue as to what was going on, or for this ten year old, probably the nearest adult. 
               But after some reflection, I had a different thought.  Like, “Where did this kid go to school?”  Because at some point it seems possible that
an authority figure should have laid down the law and let this angel sink or
swim on his own.  I asked a teacher friend of mine, and he said he has seen stuff like this before.  “If the parents don’t correct the behavior, then nothing changes” he told me.  I
guess that makes sense.  If your parents never say, “Hey, it’s time to put on your big boy pants and take care of a few things yourself without the hand-holding” I guess he will continue to get by
until this particular technique burns him.  I just picture a sixteen year old version of him, down at a Braves game, GPS turned off, asking the nearest homeless guy, “Hey, which way to the

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


  I am going to make some assumptions, despite the catchy saying I always hear about them.  I will assume that there are not many current high school or college students reading a blog about being a Dad.  I will further hypothesize that there is not a lot of women reading this thing either.  That leaves us with some early middle age guys, like me, just trying to keep it honest.  So, if I am correct in these statements, then it probably holds true that you've seen "Goodfellas", since even if you missed it its been in heavy rotation on cable. 

 Today I had a flashback.  It was a flashback to a simpler time, circa early 1990's.  It was the first time (of many to come) that I saw "Goodfellas".  Remember the part where Henry (classic Liotta, probably on a powder diet) is making the sauce, running guns, checking the sauce, avoiding the helicopter, running drugs etc?  Oh the busy life of a mobster.  Today, I felt he had nothing on me.

 My wife is a CPA and she's slammed this time of year.  So the first 2 hours of my day were getting the 3 kids (and dogs!) roused, semi responsive, fed, watered, and to school before the dreaded bell.  Then it was off to work in Atlanta, taming the Atlanta traffic by use of overly loud hip-hop, and the best car dancing moves my seat belt would allow.  Despite my day at the office (and my Post Traumatic Work Syndrome that followed) it was back to pick up the kiddies, feed them again, and then the whirlwind of multiple gymnastic classes at different times, followed in rapid succession by a Girl Scouts meeting.  It was kinda like juggling knives.  One misstep, and the whole night goes up in smoke.  It was very similar to Henry's day, minus the drugs, guns, and cops (I did chug a sugar free Rockstar, which I suspect contains liquid crack).

   But this is no pity party.  I realize there are all over doing this same thing, and many single parents making the magic happen happen as well.  But I am beginning to have the feeling that trying to stretch ourselves as parents so thin so our kids can "have it all" may not be the right thing.  Maybe 1 activity for each child and "no technology" Sundays are a better way to bond as a family.  Thoughts?  Let's all grab our 7 hours of sleep before we rewind and hit the beach head again. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Putting It Out There

Hello loyal followers.  By that, I mostly mean my family.  I wanted to start this blog to discuss all things "Dad".  It may be work/life balance, difficult parenting situations, or sharing laundry tips and favorite recipies (I'm joking-kinda).  I am a Dad to three wonderful daughters.  My wife and I live in the Atlanta suburbs.  Although this will be a Dad-themed blog, I will from time to time take the liberty to drift into other areas.  So like Julius Caesar once said, "Let the dice fly".  He either said that, or never split 10's, I can never remeber which.