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Friday, June 15, 2012

Father's Day follow up.....

Father’s Day

So thanks so much to our guest, Mrs. Hellenbrand. 
Top notch job, but I would expect nothing less.  And to her comment, I begged her to write for me mostly due to the writer’s block.  But now that she got the ball rolling I will keep it pick it up and keep the celebration going….  

Despite her inability to you know, actually be a man, I think she’s got the gist of it.  We are Fathers.  We are the last to sit down.  We handle the things that go bump in the night, whether they are real or imagined.  And when it comes to our families, there is no doubt we love them. 
But perhaps she gives us too much credit.  I’ll never forget the first time my wife came tearing around the corner of the house, screaming that there was a snake in the backyard.  “SNAKE!”  She yelled in a terrified voice, “GO KILL IT!”  YES!  We must do this I thought to myself.  I waited a beat or two for somebody to go back there and get it.  Then I waited a little longer.  Then I realized she was talking to me.  

I think the lifecycle of a dad is a little messy for a lot of us dads, and luckily we have understanding families that allow for us to grow and learn.  This year has held many opportunities for me to look back and reflect on life and fatherhood.  I somewhat recently attended my high school reunion and approach “the big 40”, both events ripe for reflection.    

Here is what I’ve discovered:  We have covered some ground now.  We stopped by “cute little boy” for a few years, went to “obnoxious teen” for awhile, and then to a slightly blurry phase I call “irresponsible personal exploration” that covered the late teens and early twenties.  I seem to recall having a lot of fun and finding piles and piles of ATM withdrawal slips by my bedside most Saturday mornings, but the details escape me.  

Now were deep into “adulthood”.  Growing up watching my dad, I always perceived it to be horribly boring.  Work, mow the yard, and then go to bed by 10pm.  It didn’t seem like much through my eyes.  What I didn’t realize is that there are a hundred little challenges and moments with your family that make it fun and exciting.  My interests and what I do with myself have changed (let’s be clear: for the better).  

For us seasoned dads, we have gotten pretty good at the basics.  We make three trips to the car to haul in the family luggage while our crew excitedly explores the vacation housing.  We stand when there are one seats too few.  And yes, we go eradicate the unwanted pests from the area, whether it’s is a snake or some other unknown assailant.  As encapsulated by the man standing: Dads are often the last to eat off the carcass in today’s world.  We come to learn how to do all of these things and accept all of the glorious awards that come with it (read: few).  

But these are small sacrifices.  Now we are getting to the hard part.  We are no longer needed to feed our kids, hold their hands to help them balance as they take their first steps, or change diapers.  They are growing up before our eyes.  As a father of three daughters ages 5-15, more and more I am hearing “I can do it”.  This is a good thing, of course, so what is my role now?  How can I help?  I say it’s getting harder.  How do we teach our kids to harness their talents?  How do we give them the ability to take care of themselves?  Can we expose them to the positives in life, helping them to have the skills and knowledge to make smart choices down the road?  How can we show them the way to become happy productive adults?  How do we coach/lead/teach them everything they need to, gulp, leave us behind one day?

We are Dads.  We have embraced this.  The women that captured our hearts so long ago have grown into families that we love so much.  As Kristi wrote about, we do dad things that include trips to Home Depot and profusely sweating after exercise.  As Father’s we must change as our families do.  We do our best to tackle the obstacles that life throws in our way, and in the way of our families.  Even in today’s world where so many traditional roles have been turned on their heads, this is our responsibility and we love it.  Even if (when) our execution is a little off sometimes, it is still better to have a dad who cares.  So take a day to celebrate dad and all the little quirks that make him who he is.  Take him to the stadium or let him sit on the couch.  Make him his favorite meal as a symbol of your appreciation.  Celebrate the day and have fun with it.  Heck, just taking a time and telling him he is appreciated is a gift in and of itself.  So, I’m off to see help plan my Father’s Day menu.  To any Dads reading this:  Happy Father’s Day!

John is the proud father of three and author of Dude You’re Gonna Be a Dad. You can check out his fatherly advice (gripes) and ramblings at and follow him on Twitter at @johnpfeifferdad .

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Father's Day!!! Welcome Our Guest.....

With Father’s Day fast approaching, I felt the pressure to come up with a brilliant blog post.  So instead of jumping right on it, I called in a favor from a friend.  This week at “Dude” blogquarters we are honored to have fellow author Kristi Hellenbrand as a guest.  She is author of the wonderful book, “Today is a Good Day for Marshmallows” which can be purchased on Amazon.  For those dedicated readers, you may remember I was a guest on her blog for Mother’s Day (  Just as Kristi had a chance to attack me, um, I mean, respond to my article, I will do the same.  

Dads: Their Roman Catapults & Nasty Gym Shorts

To keep with the spirit of the upcoming Father's Day weekend, my good friend John asked me to guest blog on the topic of fatherhood. Note: I am a mother. Now, this may be payback since he guest-blogged (marvelously, I might add) for my website on the topic of Mother's Day. He probably wants a turn to kick up his feet and drink a few Corona beers this weekend, or maybe he just has writer's block. Either way, I am happy to oblige.

Warning!(here comes the disclaimer...) No, I have not suddenly sprung a pair. Therefore I write this piece from an overwhelmingly estrogen/progesterone perspective. I do not hold an academic degree that makes me any kind of expert on fathers and will not pretend to know even a smidgeon about how it feels to be a father in these modern times. I will, instead, muse on what it looks like it feels like.

As I write this, I am sitting comfortably in an oversize window of a local coffee house. Directly outside my window there is a cute little family sitting on a bench waiting for a table at Ted's Montana Grill. There are five of them, two young elementary-aged boys sandwiched between their mother and their big sis. They have grabbed the last remaining bench and there is no room for Dad. Repeat: Dad is standing. Stationed a few feet in front of them, like a captain commanding a ship, this man knows it is his fatherly/manly duty to relinquish his seat for the sake of his woman and his children. Not exactly Titanic here, but the social message is the same. I am witnessing what it means to be a man with a family. Correction: an upstanding man with a family.

My children have asked on numerous occasions why there is not a Sister Day or Brother Day on our beautiful nation's calendar. I am quick to laugh(!?!) and inform them it is because their job is too easy. Meaning they eat, sleep, might put their dishes in the dishwasher, but definitely never provide dinner or field work phone calls until 9pm. Our 401K does not receive contributions from them, and the refrigerator is not stocked by their hands. They consume, use, devour and generally disrupt order in our home. If they put away their laundry they do so only because they have run out of underwear and prefer not to go commando.

Besides, I further explain to them, children get their birthdays to loaf around and take advantage of the kindness of their family members. We, parents, rarely get to bum around being waited on hand and foot. Even the details of our birthdays are often orchestrated by our own hands. So, in 1972 President Richard Nixon signed Father's Day into law. It seemed fair, mothers had been celebrated for forty years already, so dads received a day to be renowned and to decompress a bit. Therefore, I authorize you, fathers, to drag your family to the golf course this weekend! Make your wife take you to the Braves game! And then force everyone to watch that same game on ESPN later that night! Because it is Father's Day and it is your right.

All fun aside though, fatherhood is tough. Fatherhood begins the moment you are drawing spirals on your wife's back with your fingertips in order to keep her distracted while in the throws of natural childbirth. A few weeks later, fatherhood is defined by waking in the wee hours of the night to change diapers before your wife nurses your prodigy back to sleep. It is only later as our little munchkins grow into romping, running, giggling little people, that the enjoyment of fatherhood increases exponentially. You thrive on your children's smiles, their laughter, and their unadulterated love for you. Coming home from an exhausting day at work, hearing their feet pitter-patter across the floor in a mad rush to greet you, they leap into your arms screaming, “Daddy!!”  And you wouldn't have it any other way. It makes the hassles of board meetings and sales calls, and even the ache you feel deep in the lower half of your spine from having been on your feet all day, fade into oblivion.

When our baby girl, Brooklynn, joined our household I quickly realized that I would have to give up a share of my husband's heart. No longer was I the only woman in his life. Because Daddy was smitten. He loved her piggy-tails, her white sundresses, and her gritty way of telling him that she wanted to wrestle. Yes. Wrestle. This is where we, mothers, lack. Without her daddy, Brooklynn would never have realized her love for rough-housing. Her love for hand to hand combat. I will not comment on whether that would have been a tragedy or not, I will simply state that things would be different around here without the things a father innately brings to family life.

Daddy is the one that baits the worm on the hook, kills the snake in the barn, and dusts the ceiling fan from atop the extension ladder. And while he is up on that ladder he finds time to build the world's tallest Lego tower. He helps his son build an ancient Roman catapult for a school project, and saves the frantically squealing field mouse from the determined jaws of our barn cat in order to console  a distraught daughter. Daddy teaches us how to kill carpenter bees with a tennis racket and explains the difference between a BB gun and a .22 long rifle. Kids eat this stuff up.

Every father would agree, I think, that these are the true joys of fatherhood. The reasons that men awake each morning and continue to drive to those nine-to-fives. The reasons for financial planners, 529 college plans,  and savings accounts strictly devoted to family vacations. The reasons they ultimately forgo bachelorhood and hitch themselves to a good woman.

Dear fathers, the woman in your home adores you. You probably do not hear it enough, but please know it. Know that we appreciate your strength, your calm and your sensibility. We love that you can rewire something, find a stud in the wall, and reposition furniture on a whim. We love it when the baby falls asleep on your lap, when you toss the kids into a four-foot-high vertical in the swimming pool and when you agree to swing by the grocery store on your way home because dinner is not at home waiting for you tonight. We may not love your crazy, loud music or your nasty gym shorts, but we cannot imagine, and hope never to experience a life without you in it. God bless all of you fathers on this happy holiday!

Kristi Hellenbrand is the newly published author of  Today is a Good Day for Marshmallows– A Mother’s Memoir, which received an honorable mention at the 2012 New York Book Festival. She is also the mother of three nutty children (whom she loves and adores anyway), is a chiropractor, a backyard gardener, and an animal lover. She is on a personal quest to be the best mother and wife that she can be, but confesses that she is “no Yoda.” She is simply a woman that is willing to share her many successes and failures in the name of her goal. Please join her and her followers on her blog page. She welcomes your comments and emails. She lives in Georgia with her husband, three children, and two dozen pets.