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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Definition of an Apparent Parent AKA Jungle Gym Parents Unite!

Being an "apparent parent" means involving
your children, no matter how tired it
makes you - and the children.
When my kids are awake, my 6-foot-5 frame converts into monkey bars, a climbing rope, a jungle gym, a slide, a rocking horse (or a walking horse if I'm not too tired), a swing set, a particle accelerator and more. The short way of saying that is my kids crawl all over me as a substitute for the playground I won't buy them. Within a few seconds of walking through the door from work most nights, my daughter will usually say, "I want a ride," while my son says, "I want to wrestle you on my bed."

Oddly, these things cannot be done simultaneously. So I do them in rapid succession. I swing the children onto my back and begin the grueling crawl into their bedroom. I start in the carpeted living area but soon transition to the wooden portion of the floor which leads down the long hall - haul? - to their bedroom. My knees refuse to participate in this part. I weigh 200+ pounds without two kids clinging to my back, neck and shoulders while draping their security blankets across my vision. So the added weight and awkwardness of balancing two children that have known how to walk for less time than it took Lady Gaga to burn her hideous name and personality into the soul of America makes it uncomfortable to crawl on wood in my customary shorts.

That was definitely a run-on sentence. But I like it.

So I end up scurrying down the hall in a bear crawl (anyone remember those from football practice?) with my homemade weight set clinging to my back or face as the case may be. It's great calisthenics, but it's tiring. Then I dump both kids on my son's bed and proceed to wrestle with the children. This usually involves me tossing the kids around like crash test dummies while they laugh uncontrollably. Then when I stop, they ruthlessly tackle me until I start again. Then, when I tire of the crash-test routine - heaven knows they never do - I break out the "spiders." My hands turn into the spindly little creatures that have to crawl all over the most ticklish parts of the children. More laughter comes between statements like "I want to squish the spiders!" coming from the kids.

Why play on the playground when you have a
perfectly good daddy to slide down, tumble on,
tackle, swing around on and harass?
Then we'll often move into Jack-and-the-Beanstalk mode. This is where one kid is the giant and the rest of us are Jack cowering under a blanket so the giant won't find us. In fact, it was during one of these games that my daughter learned one of her first words before she even turned 9 months old. "Hide, hide, hide, hide," she would say with a grin as we draped blankets over our head. Nowadays, it's more like a frantic, "Daddy, we need to hide so brother won't eat us."  And as we get under the blanket, brother comes stomping in roaring, "Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an English bum. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread." I'm always surprised how much violence he can get behind those words. Then after he tackles my head (always my head - particularly annoying when you wear glasses) under the blankets, the kids switch positions and the game repeats itself until the kids tire or figure out something else that's fun to do.

Anyway, that kind of rough-and-tumble interaction just doesn't happen with every parent out there. And I think it's important. Heck, I'm the first to admit that it's easier to watch TV, play a video game, bust out a sudoku book or build a nuclear reactor with your thumbs duct taped together than be an "apparent parent." But interacting, talking and showing love by just paying attention to the little critters is what makes someone an "apparent parent." It is obvious that I am the parent of my children. I still have my fair share of "not right nows" and "wait a minute, Daddy's talking to Mommy"s, but my kids know they can generally get my attention if they want it.

My dad once told me something that is way too true in many instances. He said, "Mothers cook, clean, play, color with crayons, change diapers, read books, sing songs, teach lessons and generally interact with their children all day. Fathers are vaguely aware there's some little people running around the house."

I don't want to be that kind of father. An "apparent parent" will be called "Daddy" by his children long after his children's friends have stopped calling their parents by that sacred title. I don't want to be father or dad. I want to be "Daddy." A lot of love comes through in that word. An "apparent parent" knows what's happening in their kid's life. Kids are an integral part of that parent's life. Some parents would rather they never had children. An "apparent parent" loves the fact that he has someone to call him "Daddy."

What does "apparent parent" mean to you?

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