AboutNate Smith is an improvisational comedian, a husband, and a father. He's not sure which is hardest. Learn more about Nate Smith at bestnatesmithever.com
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If you’re a long time follower of Improvising Fatherhood, you’ll recognize these giraffes. The giraffe on the left has been Chandler’s favorite stuffed animal all his life. And as you can see, when compared to the brand new one on the right, his giraffe has been well loved and taken everywhere.
Ashley has wanted to swap out the original giraffe for the new one for quite some time now. I have been against this idea from the start. If you ask me, that giraffe isn’t dirty. It’s experienced. It’s not covered in filth. It’s covered in memories.
Nevertheless, I supported my wife’s decision. Also, Chandler threw up on the giraffe today. We asked Chandler if he’d like it if giraffe took a bath and came back all clean. Chandler said yes and giraffe was whisked away. Moments later a sparkling clean giraffe returned.
Chandler’s expression was very telling.
Mom - “Chandler, aren’t you happy to see YOUR giraffe all clean now?”
Chandler - “Leon’s giraffe.”
Leon is Chandler’s friend who has the exact same giraffe, except his never leaves the room and looks brand new.
Mom - “No, this is Chandler’s giraffe. I gave him a bath and he’s all clean now!”
Chandler - “Nope.”
Later, as Ashley was putting Chandler to bed, he began throwing the giraffe across the room.
Ashley - “Chandler, do you want dirty giraffe back?”
Chandler - “Yes, ask daddy.”
He then went to the top of the stairs and called out to me, “DADDY! Dirty giraffe back!”
And so, Chandler is now peacefully cuddling up to his experience-riddled giraffe covered in his own memories.
As we were walking to our car Ashley and I were talking and Chandler started calling out, “Nanya!” which is his word for car. We finished our conversation and then finally pandered to him, “Yes, do you see lots of cars? Are we going to our ca- Oh where’s our car?”
We had passed the car and Chandler was trying to tell us.
I’ve been working on this for about a week and finally have gotten Chandler to give the desired response each time.
Me: Chandler, what does whining get you?
I realize I might have to actually explain to him what ‘nothing’ means. It’s probably going to be a while before he really understands what we are saying. I think a lot of the parenting I am doing right now won’t truly take effect for a few years. But it’s good to set a strong foundation now.
While playing at the mailbox, a neighbor of ours, who is from India, walked up to the mailbox. We asked Chandler to say hi. Chandler pointed at his forehead and said, “Circle.”
The other night the family headed out to the park for a picnic dinner and some fun in the sun. The park was infested 6-year-olds running around and playing. Chandler was enthralled. He picked up his big red ball and sauntered on over to a group of boys to see if they’d be interested in playing.
He watched a group of 1st-grade girls imitate Beyoncé music videos, but he was more interested in the boys running around pushing each other. He’ll be more interested in the Beyoncé girls later. (or not. Whatever.)
He casually stood by and watched as the boys ran and screamed and jumped about. He shyly inched closer hoping one of them would somehow include him in their reindeer games. Finally he decided he needed to show them what he could do. He put down his ball and began doing some big jumps off the stairs. With each landing he looked around to see if anyone noticed. He zipped around displaying his impressive speed.
After nobody would take his bait, Chandler decided to take a much more direct approach. He walked up to one of the boys and threw his big red ball at him. The ball bounced twice before landing right at the kids’s feet. The boy happily booted the ball past Chandler. This delighted Chandler and before he knew it a full on game was being played amongst all the bigger kids with his red ball. Occasionally one of the nicer kids would make sure to include Chandler. Maybe it was because I was standing nearby brandishing a wiffle ball bat.
Chandler was pretty content to watch the game he had started but it was always an extra thrill to show off his kicking skills. He even got a few ‘nice kick!’s from some of the kids, which practically made him blush.
I always find it fascinating to watch how a game like this unfolds. The rules are unwritten and really just require everyone involved to cooperate. Inevitably there will always be someone who hogs the ball or decides to punt it way outside of the perimeter of the group. That player is quickly ostracized and the players who cooperate are favored.
I look forward to watching as Chandler learns all about these unwritten rules and figures out where and how he’ll fit into the equation.
One of the great things Improvising Fatherhood has done for me is given my father and I a lot to talk about. My parents live in the Midwest and I live on the West coast, and IF helps them stay connected to their grandson as he grows up. But IF is also keeping me more connected to my father, which is a really nice bonus.
Here is what my dad had to say about a recent post. I’ve added a few notes to give context to his comments:
Thanks for the kind words. I truly hope that you have a decisive moment with Chandler, like the one I had with you, when you were about 7, at the McDonald’s in Laurence, Kansas, standing in line with 10 other boys from Grand Slam Camp (a baseball camp run by my father’s indoor batting cage business) who were twice your age, and who had recently had their tails kicked by you in Eliminator (a ground ball fielding contest).
“Dad (in a whispered tone), what should I order?”
“Same as always. Jimmy, don’t touch him there.” (apparently Jimmy, one of the other kids, was touchy)
“But Dad, what should I get? “
“WHAT! Just order a Happy M….(suddenly realizing your predicament), Okay, when it’s your turn to order (now I’m whispering) get 2 cheeseburgers, french fries, and a coke.”
It was your first regular meal at McDonald’s, and given the group you were with, it was obviously your only choice. Say goodbye to the Hamburgler toy inside the Happy Meal and hello to saving face with the big boys. And I thank God that I finally understood the REAL meaning of, “Dad, what should I order?”
I remember this moment very well. I don’t remember Jimmy touching the other kids, but I remember getting out of the van and walking in with all the big kids. I had ALWAYS had Happy Meals. But I couldn’t get a Happy Meal today. That would make me look like a baby. And, as my Dad pointed out, I had just whooped all these older boys in a baseball competition. I had earned their respect. A Happy Meal would just have taken me back to square one.
I remember being very grateful for my Dad’s understanding in this situation. And I remember being pissed because the Happy Meal toy was REALLY cool that day.
Recently I wrote about the joys of traveling without Chandler. Getting in and out of the airport felt like an absolute breeze. Meals were relaxing. Sleep was restful.
This weekend my wife and I went out of town for the weekend to attend a friend’s wedding. We left Chandler at home with the Grandparents. Here are the worst things about traveling without your child.
1. Where are the wet wipes when you need them? Wet Wipes have become an essential part of our life and are a cure-all for any messy problems. Without a child around, there’s no need to carry Wet Wipes with you, but this weekend we had several occasions where it would have been nice to have a pack of Wet Wipes handy.
2. You mean…I have to talk to these people? At the wedding there were a lot of really interesting people who I had absolutely no interest in meeting. It’s not that I don’t want to know who they are, it’s that I am extremely bad at conversation. My wife is amazing at it. She asks really inquisitive questions and always seems so interested in their world. But without her around I’m dead in the water. Thanks to Chandler, I usually have a great excuse to be pulled away from the adult table. After all, look at me, running around with my kid…I’m such a good father, right? Thanks, now leave me alone.
3. Nobody wants to sing the Wheels on The Bus Go Round and Round with me? Seriously, I love singing this song.