I really hate letting things go to waste. Yes, that statement is at odds with my aversion to clutter and desire for less, but in this particular case, I’m thinking about food. It never fails that when garbage night rolls around each week, we find ourselves with some slices of bread that’s starting to go, or fruit that’s past its prime and starting to turn. In times past, this may have found a home in the garbage bag while our sense of regret finds a home in our minds. But recently, I’m pretty proud that we’ve been finding a way to make sure that even those items get a new life or use.
And the answer lies right outside our kitchen window.
In our new digs of the past year, we’re not that far from some wooded areas and in the middle of the night last winter, up with our second child who couldn’t fall back asleep, Meg looked out the bedroom window to see a deer staring back at her. Since that night, throughout the winter months when food is not as plentiful in the woods, they come as one, sometimes in packs of three or even five and feast on the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder hanging from a tree in our backyard.
So now when that (non-citrus) fruit starts to go, or when the kids want an apple but don’t finish all of it, or even the apple core I have left over from lunch, out into the backyard it goes under the tree, where the next morning, if not within a few hours, it’s disappeared, gobbled up by our neighbors the deer, or squirrels, or perhaps that plethora of beautiful birds that frequent the place.
Will seeing me find an alternative to tossing away the leftover fruit rub off onto our kids? I don’t know. I’d like to hope so. Sometimes it feels like it’s an uphill battle to try and keep this planet in better shape than we found it, but if something like not throwing out certain types of food that makes a welcomed meal to the wildlife outside our door can make even a small difference, I’m all for it.
Parenthood can be a lot of things. Exciting. Frustrating. Heartwarming. Exhausting. Joyous.
And sometimes, parenthood can be spending your Saturday night picking the lock on your bathroom door because a certain five year old boy was curious about what would happen if he pushed the button inside then closed it behind him on the way out.
So it was to the internet we went to learn just what it takes to work a push-button lock from the other side and how it all operates.
It’s amazing what you can learn about things you have in your daily lives but don’t think too much about until you need to.
After about 20 minutes and a trial run of various tools, from screwdrivers of varying sizes, a nail file, and other household tools that didn’t work or reach what they needed to, it was a paperclip from the desk drawer that proved to be just what was needed to reach far enough into the lock from the small opening and pop the lock on the other side.
So while initially and admittedly frustrated, some patience, along with the power of a paperclip, paid off.
For my next trick, I pick the vault lock of the Gotham National Bank! Mwa-ha-ha!
I’ve been quiet lately.
But there’s been a reason. Actually quite a few.
I’ve been juggling.
Traveling with the circus in a polka-dot shirt and shiny silk pants I toss balls in the air as fast as…
Okay. If you’re with me this far, then thank you because you know that’s not the type of juggling I’m talking about yet you still stuck around through my ridiculousness.
No, I’ve been juggling a lot in terms of life. We all do. Some do so better than others and other times some things give. For me, one of the the things that gave was the ability to stay on top of reflections and writing those day to day anecdotes and lessons of life. But that’s because I’ve often been so incredibly exhausted by the end of the night that I fight to keep my eyes shut.
See, we moved about two weeks ago, give or take. The weeks leading up to it were a maze of packed boxes in our previous house and now that we’re in our new digs, it’s an explosion of boxes as we continually try to get unpacked, and settled. And as many probably know, that kind of task, with a one year old and four year old, is not exactly the easiest.
Throw in our day jobs, the trips back and forth to school for the little guy, my grad school studies, trying to finish packing up the remainders at the old house (the basement and garage, especially), juggling the expenses of two homes until we sell, and anything holiday related – from getting a tree, to shopping, to decorating, everything in life seems to be hitting at once and admittedly, it’s hard to juggle it all. That’s not counting any of the additional work that either of us do freelancing or volunteering. It may not seem like a lot when you see it on paper, but when you’re living it, it’s a handful.That said, the kids have adjusted very well to our move, as have our three feline boys. Knock on wood. Our son loves his new, bigger room, the cats love having a fireplace to lay in front of, and the baby – well, she didn’t even flinch at the change of environment.
It makes me think that we adults are the ones with the most baggage. Whether it was leaving behind the kind neighbors we had gotten to know and see every day as we came and went, or the stray kitties who would come and go from our yard, there were things that completely tugged and continue to tug on our heartstrings about the change.
But there’s so much good. Our commutes have been cut into at least half, if not more, which means more time together and less time spent on the road each day and a little more space as our family grows.
And once we make our way through all the boxes, the clutter, the chaos, I’ve no doubt we’re going to find even more good to look forward to. Okay, let’s be honest. The boxes sometimes never go away and the clutter comes and goes. And chaos? Well, I think anyone with kids can agree that chaos is just part of the daily agenda.
But in between that, slipping through all of it each day are the moments, those little moments that before you know it add up to a life. A pretty good one at that, and for that, I consider myself truly blessed.
It’s amazing how quickly our little family has grown – from Meg and I, to our first cat, then another, then a third. Then came our little guy, followed last year by our little girl. Very quickly, our little starter home started to feel a little bit smaller.
And so, we admit we have been looking for something to move on to – whether it be today, tomorrow, or next year, it will happen when the time is right. I’m convinced of that. I wasn’t always. But I am now.
Even with those feelings of outgrowing our space, of constantly boxing up our lives to make room for the changes going on amidst us, it’s never easy to think about a change to the sites, sounds, and faces that you see every day.
There have been times where something happens that makes me say or think ‘ugh. We need to move’ but those thoughts are then counter-balanced whenever we get close to the thought of actually purchasing a new home.
This was never more pronounced than recently when we had gone and looked at a house for sale and decided that we wanted to make a move on it and put in an offer.
Like an interrogated suspect under the spotlight in one of those old crime movies, my head and body began to swell with anxiety and fear.
- What were we doing?
- Was this the right move to make?
- What will the neighbors be like?
- Will we regret this decision later?
- What type of peers will our kids have in the neighborhood? Will it be good? Will there be trouble?
And so it goes. And goes. And goes until I was just a ball of neurotic over-analyzation and worry. Given enough time I can talk myself out of anything. Maybe that’s the road I was heading down, I don’t know, but it’s certainly the path my brain takes when decisions aren’t made and are given time to settle, to fester, to raise concerns.
In the end, we didn’t get that particular house and another offer was accepted. I truly believe there’s a reason for that. It wasn’t the one for us. The right one will come along at the right time and we’ll know it and if things don’t work out, it wasn’t the one for us.
We walked back to the car, Meg, myself, and the kids, and sure, the standard feeling would be defeat after a situation like that, but it wasn’t.
As we got into the car, offer rejected, we decided to head to Barnes and Noble where our little guy can play with the train table, dance on the stage (he’s never met a stage he doesn’t like to dance on) and just felt…okay.
So this offer, this plan, this house didn’t work out. We still have a house to go back to. Maybe it’s not perfect. Maybe it’s not as much room as we’d like at times. Maybe there are sometimes some weird stuff going on that I question and worry about. But we have a home, which is something to be incredibly grateful for in a world where so many people don’t. Without even consulting each other, it was like we all took the same mental step back after the rejection and breathed a sigh of gratitude. We had a home.
And most of all, we have each other.
We truly and honestly, felt fully, inside and out that age old saying – home is where the heart is.
As long as we have each other, it doesn’t matter where we are. We’ll be home.
We’ve all seen that cliche image from times past – a father, back relaxed in an easy chair, legs propped up on a footrest. Perhaps he’s wearing a robe, smoking a pipe, and even wearing slippers. Or at the very least maybe the family dog is bringing the slippers or paper to him.
I don’t want to talk about those guys.
I want to talk about a few other fictional fathers of the screen that aren’t that stereotype of 1950s America so often thought of when reflecting on old TV shows of the past. I want to talk about a few fellas who, whether the present or the past, have, for the most part (they all have off days or an idea that’s a bit out of touch now and then, but we’ll forgive them) are solid foundations of fatherhood, and examples that those of us living outside the screen can look to for a little inspiration and example as to what it means to not just be a father, but to be a dad.
Judge James Hardy
Putting aside the one initial appearance of Lionel Barrymore, Judge James Hardy is most commonly known as being depicted by actor Lewis Stone in the plethora of films within the Andy Hardy series from MGM Studios throughout the 1930s and 40s. With themes of themes of honor, integrity, courage in the face of scandal, and maturity, the sixteen films revolving around the Hardy Family were an idealized vision of what America could be, if everyone treated each other the right way and stood by a core set of values and honor.
While the films over time took their focus to young Andy Hardy, at the center of those themes and values was James Hardy – father, husband, member of the community, and never too busy for his family. While some onscreen fathers of the time were distant, driven by work, no time for distraction, Judge Hardy always had the time to recognize how crucial wife Emily was to the family and he, to lend an ear to son Andy or daughter Marion, and took the time to listen to their troubles and emotions. Often referred to as ‘man-to-man talks,’ James rarely ordered his children around, instead offering the guidance and wisdom that allowed them to come to their own revelations and decisions of character, that laid the foundation for good, honest people of the next generation.
(Sadly, hard as I try, I couldn’t find a classic Hardy ‘man-to-man’ talk online to post)
Good-natured, goofy, but absolutely neurotic, Rob Petrie, played by Dick Van Dyke in the aptly titled The Dick Van Dyke Show, seemed to have a dream life, despite the sitcom hijinks. A loving wife who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and difference of opinion, a son with many questions for the ever-worrying dad, and a dream job as a comedy writer for the sketch comedy show – The Alan Brady Show. Rob had a good heart, even if he did trip over himself at times in trying to be the good dad and husband he wanted to be, and it made he, and the entire Petrie family, all the more human.
The Dick Van Dyke Show, still today, ranks among one of the best sitcoms of all time. 50 years later. And it’s just as enjoyable for audiences. Whereas some shows of decades past feel dated, out of touch, it’s never the case with the Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob, Laura, Richie, or any of the characters. Because the brilliant Carl Reiner (who created the show) was making a show about real people. And though times may change, human emotions do not. It’s because of that brilliant writing that Rob is just as great an example of a person, co-worker, husband, and father today that he was five decades ago.
A farmer from Kansas traveling with his wife when they find a baby, abandoned in a field. Oh, and that baby’s inside a spaceship that obviously just fell from outer space.
Jonathan and Martha Kent had no idea what that baby was or what he would become. But they knew, before them, stood a child with no one other than they to help him make this planet his home. Saving him from the government containment, dissection, or weaponization that could possibly follow upon finding an alien, the Kents, salt of the Earth, good, virtuous people, decided to take this baby into their home and their lives, and raise him as their own.
When little Clark Kent grew up, the Kents had no idea who or what he would be or represent. But they knew they had the task to raise a good boy, who cared about others, and one who, as he started to show special talents and gifts beyond those of mortal men, would use those powers to help the world, to save lives, to be a beacon of hope.
That spaceship could have landed anywhere on Earth. And who knows what type of person baby Kal-El of the planet Krypton would have grown up to be? Fortunately for humanity in the pages of comics, novels, cartoons, television, and films, he landed in a corn field and was found by the Kents, whose salt of the Earth personalities, and lives of good morality laid the foundation for the hard-working, virtuous, optimistic, and all-around good person Superman is today. (in most interpretations lately. I hear it varies in recent years)
So he may not be anyone’s top pick, and that’s okay. He wasn’t necessarily mine either. However, there was something about the way Daniel Tiger’s dad, seen multiple days a week on PBS Kids Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, quietly, gently handles fatherhood. At times he may seem like a figure that fades into the surroundings, but it could easily be because he and Mrs Tiger are such equal partners.
Sometimes he’s silly, sometimes he’s childlike, rolling around on the floor or crawling through pillow and sheet tunnels with Daniel, understanding and experiencing first-hand what it’s like to be a child alongside Daniel and baby Margaret.
And he works in a clock factory that’s shaped like a giant grandfather clock. Tell me you wouldn’t want to show up to work at a building that looked like that everyday.
There’s a bit of him, and the entire show that for those of us old enough to remember, hearkens back to the soft-spoken, big-hearted, watch-wearing tiger cat on Mr Roger’s Neighborhood that inspired this entirely new generation of lessons in what it means to be a good person.
The Man in the Yellow Hat
It takes a lot of patience to be a father-figure to a precocious monkey. But somehow, The Man in the Yellow Hat seems to have the endless patience I can only wish for. Whether it’s a trashed apartment, a lost portfolio, or a stampede of pumpkins causing chaos and scattering crowds in a small town, there’s usually a monkey with the curiosity of a preschooler behind it, and the understanding Man in the Yellow Hat to explain it without losing his top.
While preschoolers can see the world through the relatable eyes of George and his wonder of the world, the level of fear, over-protection, and sheer joy with every uttered “oh boy” or “be a good little monkey” is the parental heart of the series for us grown ups and makes the Man in the Yellow Hat a source of joy, wonder, guidance and learning, and fun for George that I hope we could all be for our own kids.
Of course, this list is by no means conclusive. Merely a sampling of some of my own favorites of fictional dads that I think help set the bar.
What about you? What on-screen dad examples have you ever looked at with a feeling of inspiration?