In the months leading up to the birth of my first child, there were about eight billion things I was looking forward to doing for the first time: I wanted to hold her, I wanted to fall asleep with her in my arms. I wanted to hear her spit out her first words. et cetera, et cetera. Those were the moments I longed for as an adult.
But there are a few moments I’ve been waiting for for much longer than that. The moments I started envisioning at a very early age. Pretty much, they’re the things I thought made up being a parent when I was a kid and I think these defining childhood moments probably speak more to my development as a parent than anything else.
So what kinds of things does a dad-in-training imagine one day doing with his kids? Here’s my list:
Attending school plays and giving my kid a standing ovation
I can get even more specific here and mention that I always imagined myself sitting in the third row of the audience during the annual Christmas pageant and that my child would be the one playing the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge. She’d misread lines, trip over her costume coat which would be way too big for her, possible start a fire with the open-flamed candle she was holding as a prop, and maybe even cry a little when she forgot her lines and nobody else could remember it either.
But there I’d be in row three, encouraging her even as tears formed at the corners of her eyes. I’d probably have tears in my eyes too but that wouldn’t stop me from standing up before the play was even over and giving her an ovation to end all ovations.
The first spin around the block without training wheels
I didn’t even dream of the moment my kid would first see her new bike or the first time she strapped on a helmet and peddled (training wheel on) up and down the driveway for the first time. The very specific moment I always had was of me running alongside her, one hand gently guiding the bike and then letting go and watching her, in an instant, go from being my little girl to my medium-sized girl. I was never so naive that I didn’t also see her veering quickly into the ditch but this is a moment I still very much look forward to. Especially since we now have the big kid bike.
Getting breakfast in bed and eating over-floured pancakes on a Care Bears tray
We made breakfast in bed all the time when I was growing up and I don’t remember my parents ever turning one down. In fact, knowing my brothers and myself, we probably even attempted to make the food so bad that they’d have no choice but to reject it. I’ve learned now that the act of having your children do anything for you is enough to make you want to eat an entire bag of flour.
Not once did I even picture this breakfast in bed being served on anything but the blue, bent out of shape Care Bears serving tray that almost every meal we ever ate out of the kitchen area was served on. There was something extra special about eating food of a cartoon character tray that appealed to both kid-me and my vision of dad-to-be-me.
Finding a school notebook filled with I (heart) (insert name) written on every page
My daring activity as a grade school child was stealing brand new notebooks from the brand new notebook cupboard in our classroom and then filling them with love notes to a classmate who had no idea I was writing love notes to her. I must have stolen and filled five or six of them a year. I can picture the big heart, the initials, the arrow piercing the hear and the fear that anyone would find out what I’d written.
I don’t know if my parents ever found any of my notebooks but I knew then that I’d want to see the hearts my child would draw about their future crush(es). Boy or girl, I want her to describe their crush as pookie and I want to see a picture of them running under a rainbow. I’d also like to see a poem:
Roses are Red
Violets are blue
You’re sitting in the desk that’s 15-feet away from me and I’m writing in red crayon
And I like you.
Riding on a hoverboard with my kids
I was born in 1979 which puts me in the prime demographic for Back to the Future fanatics. For some reason, I always thought it would be rgeat to ride hand-in-hand with my kids to school on our hoverboards. I think it was my way of thinking I’d be the cool dad, the one all the other kids at school went home and told their dads to be more like. A hoverboard was the ultimate expression of “cool.”
There wasn’t any chance that by the time I was old enough to have kids (which I think I believed to be about 20) we wouldn’t yet have hoverboards in wide usage.
Weekly all-night, movie-watching, chip-eating, dad and kids parties
There wouldn’t go a week where we didn’t stay up too late watching a movie. Harry and the Hendersons, Roger Rabbit and Howard the Duck would be played on endless loop. Or at least on a loop that would only end with us waking the next morning sick to our stomachs from all the ketchup chips we had eaten.
As a four-to-ten year old, I was clearly blissfully unaware of just how long “all night” was because I really thought this was a thing, and more importantly, a thing that would make me a great dad. Of course, it may just have been foreshadowing how great it is to have your kids fall asleep with their heads on your chest.
Every time I went on a trip I’d bring back hundreds of gifts
My parents didn’t go away on business very often so I was left to imagine my own protocol for leaving kids and returning a few days later from a mysterious place. Mysterious place was also relative. I lived in Ottawa and anything more than an hour away was mysterious. Gifts was also relative. While I did imagine leaving to Australia and bringing back kangaroos, or visiting Paris and bringing back jewellery, I also conceded that it would be pretty cool to even get a souvenir moose from far away Hamilton.
My children were going to want to fill their rooms with stuffed animals and they were going to attack me with love every time I got back from a trip.
“Daddy, what did you get for us while you were away!”
“Northern New York.”
“You’re the best.”
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