I am madly in love with a girl who has dark hair and dark eyes. The hardest part is that she knows this. She knows that I am crazy about her and has tried to use it against me on more than one occasion. She thinks nothing of throwing her arms around me so that she can kiss my cheek. She whispers that she loves me and waits for me to do her bidding.
So I tell her that I have a secret for her and motion for her to come closer. Her eyes get wide and I whisper in her ear…no. Suddenly she shrieks, “daddy” and then stomps her foot. I look at her and suggest that she go stomp her feet in her room. The foot stomping ends and she tells me that her friend’s father buys her whatever she wants.
I laugh and tell her that I don’t care. My goal is to be mean. She rolls her eyes at me and I give her a hard look. Her older brother is only too happy to volunteer that she is on the verge of getting into big trouble. “Can’t you see that dad is getting angry.”
I turn and look at him. I don’t have to say anything, he already knows what is going to happen. But I want to be consistent, so I remind him that it is not his business to keep the dark haired beauty in line anymore than it is her to watch over him. He nods his head and I turn back.
A few hours earlier these children of mine were running around the soccer fields chasing balls and players. While they ran I marched up and down the sidelines yelling words of encouragement and begging the six year-old girls to pay attention to the game. For a while they would be focused on the game and then something would happen, a butterfly or cloud would catch their eye and they’d be lost.
Sometimes I’d see a group of them talking to each other, teammates and opponents talking about who knows what. Little girls, cute and cuddly sharing whatever it is little girls share until a mother or mothers joined the cries of run. Can’t tell you what made the moms stand up but at one point I watched as two shouted across the field at their daughters. There was something going on that didn’t feel quite right.
So I ambled on over and stood between the two and shouted again. Couldn’t tell if either of them saw me smirk as my voice drowned out their screams. But then again I didn’t care. These girls are six and I want them to have fun.
A bit later I found myself pacing the sidelines of the ten year old boys. Again I was shouting words of encouragement, but the boys are different than the girls. They’re older and more talented so I expect more out of them.
At ten I have noticed that the talent gap is becoming more pronounced. Some of the boys are exceptional and can already do things that the others can’t. Some of them are really fast. They can’t beat me in a foot race yet but I can see that the day is coming. It won’t be long before I have to worry about a sprint the way that I worry about a distance race.
One of the fathers is shouting at the boys more aggressively than I like so I ask him to tone it down. I do my best to make it calm and non-threatening but he is clearly irritated with me. At half time I notice that he has scribbled some sort of play on the back of some scratch paper. His manner reminds me George C. Scott in the opening scene of Patton. For a moment I consider saluting him and then I decide that he deserves a different sort of salute.
But I don’t really see a need for that so I let it go. Out on the field some boy keeps pushing my son. I wait for a response that I know will be coming. I don’t want to shout and bring attention to it. Given a choice I want the boys to work it out themselves. Thus far I am not worried about anyone getting hurt, it is just two boys doing what they do. But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want my son to drop the shoulder on him.
Moments later there is a two minute water break. I take my son to the side and tell him that he can’t let the other boy push him. I don’t want him to hurt him- no elbows or punches are to be thrown but I want him to push him back. He does as I ask and the other boy stops pushing him. The game is clean again.
A moment later the dark haired beauty will tell me that she wants her brother to hit him. I tell her that it is not necessary and she tells me that she is worried about him. I smile again- these children of mine understand that they need to look out for each other. We’re doing something right with them.
The games will end and they’ll spend the rest of the day playing like best friends or screaming at each other. In between they’ll find ways to make me lose more hair and I’ll wonder what the hell I was thinking becoming a father. Later on that night I’ll kiss and hug them good night and wonder what the hell I was thinking when I complained. I love being dad, there is nothing better.