Being A Dad

The other night, Jackson cried himself to sleep. Literally. And you know what? Part of me was kind of happy about it.

Now before you accuse me of being a character in a Dickens novel, let me try to explain myself.

The source of Jackson’s anguish was the New York Jets and the fact that they had, just moments before, lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game. He was crushed. Devastated.

At first, the level of his grief caught me by surprise. I’m a die-hard Jets fan and have been for about 35 years. Jackson, on the other hand, has only recently started to show interest in not only the team, but the sport of football itself.  I don’t think he’s ever watched a game in its entirety, but he certainly had been enjoying the team’s playoff run – celebrating their victories and wearing his Jets gear proudly in the aftermath.

I should pause here to point out that, now more than ever, I have a significant amount of influence over what Jackson and Griffin like and don’t like. And I don’t mean that in an “eat your vegetables” kind of way. What I meant was if Jackson, for example, likes a musician, it means more to him if I like him/her too. And vice versa. So frequently, I need to be careful when expressing my opinions about whatever their latest obsession might be. With great power comes great responsibility (which was a cool saying the first 9000 times I heard it, but I digress). All of this was a way of saying; I’m a Jets fan so now Jackson is a Jets fan.

I know that many believe it’s ridiculous to care this much about athletes who are overpaid and who frequently exhibit questionable, if not felonious, behavior. But is it any more ridiculous to get emotional over a wrinkly alien with a glowing finger that wants to go home? No judgment here, folks, I cried at that too.

My point is sports are entertainment. They’re an escape. And one of the best parts of having a favorite team is the euphoria that comes when you see them do well. But if you’re going to have that euphoria, you must also experience the devastation when they fail. You can’t have your cake without crying over it too (those two metaphors never knew what hit them).

Another great thing about fandom is the feeling of community – the idea that you’re not going it alone. I should point out that I was not raised in a football family. Sunday afternoons in my house were no different than any other afternoon. But I was curious so I started to learn about the game on my own. After a while, I was hooked and started making plans around the Jets schedule (much more difficult in those pre-DVR days). Eventually my mom became a fan too, but for the most part I didn’t know anyone else who cared about the Green and White. Years later I did, but many of those friendships have gone into the ether and now I’m back to spending most of my football Sundays by myself.

Which brings me back to my original point (thought I’d never get there, did you?). Jackson and I have a new emotional bond. I won’t go so far as to say he’s hooked, but anyone who saw him Sunday night could never say he didn’t care. And because he’s still young and not bitter and jaded like his old man, he believed the Jets were going to win. There was no doubt in his mind. And when they didn’t, he reacted the way most 7-year olds do – he cried. Of course as he gets older, those tears will be replaced by depression, resentment and massive amounts of alcohol but for now, he had an honest emotional reaction to something he cared about.

And before he finally drifted off to sleep on his tear-stained pillow he looked at me and whispered a simple phrase… “we’ll get ‘em next year.”

You bet we will, buddy. 

Earlier today, I took Griffin to preschool.  It was his turn to bring snacks, so I handed a bag of goodies to one of the teachers and told her there was yogurt and spoons along with some pretzels for anyone who couldn't have the yogurt.  She took the bag with a smile and said, "mom thinks of everything."

Now let me step back for a moment and state some facts.  The teacher in question is a lovely woman.  And in this particular instance, it was mom's idea.  I'd go so far to say in almost every instance it's Jackson and Griffin's mom's idea.  She's always thinking 6 or 7 steps ahead of everyone in every situation - she's like the Jason Bourne of the PTA.  And, if left to my own devices, our kids would probably be knocking back Red Bull and chewing tobacco for breakfast.  

I just find it fascinating that there are certain things in life that people still assume mom took care of.  Take gifts, for example.  See if this sounds familiar - it's holiday time and the family is gathered to open gifts.  Your Aunt Irene unwraps her present and turns to your wife to thank her for her thoughtfulness.  Meanwhile, you're the one who picked it out, bought it and wrapped it.  Now there's no way to say, "hey, lady, the edible underwear was my idea" without sounding like a tool but it wouldn't hurt to give credit where credit is due.  

Look, I understand that many dads bring this upon themselves.  For some, their only contribution was a teeny little chromosome and a steady supply of AA batteries.  But times are changing ladies - we're deep in the Mr. Mom generation now and there are plenty of fellas out there packing those lunches, changing those diapers and waiting for mom to bring home the bacon so we can fry it up in a pan.