Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Crushing on my daughters, part 1

Megan's parents put together a family video last year that featured segments on all of their grandchildren. Kate's segment was set to a song that was perfect for her personality, and we've since renamed it "Kate's song." Megan was on a business trip in Spain this January and the song came on, causing more than a few tears from missing her daughters. I wasn't able to transfer that segment over to my computer so I just made a new movie, including some video.

I just started on my video of Clara, so stay tuned for part 2...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Can't Turn Away

Something happened when I had children, when I took on the responsibility of protecting little ones. My view of other children changed; my protectiveness extended to them as well. I used to look at other children and think about what fatherhood would be like, a detached curiosity. Now I look at them, especially those in danger or in pain, and where I once would have felt deeply for them, now I actually want to reach out and protect them. Even when I hear terrible stories about children from across the world, my reaction is physical, like a punch in the gut, which I never felt before having children.

This blog is pretty much a collection of silly stories, look-at-my-cute-kids pictures, and random parenting thoughts/essays. I'm grateful that my blog is that light-hearted because I have healthy children to write about. Recently I came across a dad whose blog hit me like a punch in the gut, because he writes about his daughter, who has leukemia. I tried to be objective and removed as I read about her, but this picture drew me in:

This is Serenity, a two year old girl who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. Her father has written about her struggle with the disease and the treatment from the first doctor visit to now. I came in on day 17, a low point for the father in this early part of her treatment. Earlier in the post is a picture of Serenity on the hospital bed, being a trooper, but by the picture above, she had clearly used up her patience and courage for the day. You can hear what dad is saying to her because it would be what you would say to her if you could. Since seeing that post, I haven't been able to turn away from this father's story. Serenity's dad set up a web page where visitors can sign a guest book and leave messages or donate money. This is what I wrote to him on his guest book:

Kids should not feel such pain, and we, their protectors, should not be powerless to stop it.

Following Serenity's story reminded me of a photojournalism essay that I came across last year about a Sacramento mother and her son, who fought a losing battle with cancer. The essay, which you can view here, tells the story better than words can. It is moving, uplifting, and heartbreaking - all at the same time. Each of the pictures has a caption, but I would suggest turning the captions on the second time through. I would warn you that viewing it could be an emotional experience, but if you were averse to that you probably wouldn't have read this far, anyway.

Hits you like a punch in the gut, doesn't it?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Blame Bill Cosby

My daughters, all of two and three years old, think it's the height of comedy to walk up to me, point at my face, and insult me. Really. I'm getting insulted by pre-schoolers, and I blame Bill Cosby.

The girls like to watch Little Bill, a cartoon that Bill Cosby created (and, coincidentally, my cousin Shauna animated for. Shauna was the talent behind those beautiful pictures of Clara and her toy trains last year.) In one particular episode, a new kid who likes to toss around insults comes to Little Bill's school. He walks up to Little Bill and says, "You're a peanut-head!" As an objective observer, I'd have to agree that Little Bill's head is shaped just like a peanut, but that's neither here nor there. Little Bill gets his feelings hurt and his dad shows him how to deal with mean kids.

It's a cute episode and can be very useful for little kids who are sensitive to what other kids say to or about them. But my girls seemed to miss all the positive stuff and zeroed in on how fun it seemed to insult someone. Clara will point and say, "You're a peanut!" to me, which I guess is supposed to be insulting, though Megan has always used it as a term of endearment with the girls: "Come on, Peanut. Hold my hand."

I didn't want to make a big deal about this phase because then she'd think it was even more cool to do it, but now that she's gotten Kate to do it they feed off each other. I definitely don't want them to do it to other kids.

Me: Hi sweeties!
Kate: You're a peanut!
Me: I'm a peanut? I thought I was your Daddy.
Clara: You're a poopy diaper!
Me: What?!?
Kate & Clara: You're a poopy diaper! You're a poopy diaper! (lots of laughter)
Me: Is it your bedtime yet?

Clara will take anything marginally inappropriate and turn it into an insult:

Clara: You're a bootie!
Me: You know what you are? You're beautiful.
Clara: You're a tooty-boy!
Me: Great.

So, thanks Bill Cosby.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pink, Ponytails, and Princesses

It's hard not to smile, really, knowing now that our third child is going to be a girl. We found out yesterday and I've been getting a mixture of sympathy and looks that say, "Good luck, buddy!" People have asked Megan if I'm disappointed. In a way I am, but I find it impossible to be told that I'm going to have a baby girl and be disappointed at that. I have to resign myself to the fact that I'm not going to have a son, but that's not the fault of this little girl. Now that I have her, I'm not going to waste any energy wishing she were something else.

There's something comically karmic about this. When Megan and I first talked about having children, I warned her that our chances of having a girl were slim. Girls are (were) rare on the Bittle side of the family. I only had a brother. My father only had brothers. For three generations only two girls were born to Bittles, my cousin Danille and my niece Alex, and both were outnumbered in their own households with two brothers each. So we decided that we would keep having children until we got our girl or an entire offensive line, whichever came first. So much for that.

So much, too, for my no princess rule, which was followed about as much as my rule limiting the color pink. Evidently, anything non-pink makes the girls look like boys. So with resigning myself to being the only boy in this house (even our dog is a girl) I also resign myself to a lifetime of the color pink, of near ear splitting squeals, of frilly nightgowns, of purses and high heel shoes that go clip clop loudly on the hardwood floors, of hair clips and headbands, of doll houses, and a whole world of girl stuff that they've yet to discover.

Go ahead, laugh at the stay-at-home dad who was handed three girls to take care of. I'm just barely qualified to raise children, but three girls? You know those tiny rubber bands that girls use to make their ponytails? My fingers are too fat and too clumsy to handle those. This morning I handed Clara her shoes and she said, "Daddy, these don't match what I'm wearing." Most disturbing is their favorite toy at Nana's house: their cell phones.

I'm in trouble.

I found the picture up there and liked how the little one seemed to be approaching the other two as if to say, "Here I come!" Plus, the little one reminds me of Clara. As they are all looking away, it plays on the mystery of what the girls will look like at that age. It also reminds me of the O'Brien-Wilson girls, stair-stepped like that and beautiful.

I can't wait to meet her...