Dad Rock: An Appreciation of Bruce Springsteen

Full disclosure – at almost no point in my life did I listen to music that was currently popular. Outside of a few exceptions like MC Hammer when I was 6 and the Foo Fighters in my late teens/early twenties, the majority of the music I listen has always been at least 20 years old at the time. And while driving around in high school with a cassette of Cat Stevens in my truck might not have been “cool”, it was preparing me for how to listen to music like a dad.

Somewhere between Yacht Rock and Hard Rock lies Dad Rock. Easy listening enough to be kid friendly, yet rock enough to let you hang on to the illusion that there is still a cool factor to it. I assume there are some dads out there who listen to their music of choice regardless of if their kids are in the car or not. I suspect these are the same dads who place letters from the end of the alphabet in their kid’s names. Jaxon’s dad listens to Ozzy in the car. Landyn’s dad listens to Vampire Weekend. Blaze’s dad listens to Post Malone. For the rest of us there is Dad Rock, and at the heart of the genre lies Bruce Springsteen.

In the last two or so years I’ve listened to more Springsteen than I had in my life. Sure, I’ve always appreciated the hits, but never before had I heard “Rosalita” and had the impulse to turn up the volume. I never used to hear “Glory Days” and actually feel nostalgic. I once heard somebody refer to Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind” as music dad listens to in the car when he’s sad. Clearly that person never heard “The River.” I listened to “The River” on my drive to the office this morning. Even if I impregnate my wife tonight, having The Boss make put me in a wistful mood will be the most dad thing I do all day.

I feel like Bruce himself has even become Dad Rock personified. When he was young he was cool. Some might even say sexy. Oh, the times he had. Don’t get me wrong, he looks good for man his age. But then again, he’s a man his age. And sure, he’s still out there touring but you can tell he ain’t what he used to be. He puts out some new stuff but it doesn’t compare to the old stuff. His music is not rebellious rock and roll any more. It’s safe. It’s reliable. It’s dad.

At some point I’ll expose my kids to a wider range of music, but not until the foundation is laid. Hopefully if they grow up listening to classics when they hear what’s new they’ll think “What is this crap? Put on some Phil Collins!”

And I know when they get older they will discover music on their own, some of it good and some of it Taylor Swift, but I feel like I can’t let that happen on my watch. So I’ll turn up “Spirit in the Night” and I’ll be sad to “My Hometown” if it means keeping my kids a way from trash like Drake or Billie Eilish, or, god forbid, talk radio.

The Greatest Punishment of All Time

Today my daughter threw a piece of burrito at me. She was promptly sent to her room. Her initial reaction was fear, she doesn’t like it when Dad gets mad. Then disbelief, as if being sent to her room was a completely unexpected result of throwing a semi-chewed piece of tortilla at one’s father. When she got to her room the water works came on and I thought to myself, she doesn’t know how good she has it.

Not in the sense that in a another time (or in this time with a different father) the punishment would have been a more violent one, but in the sense that being sent to your room is actually fantastic. I love it when I get sent to my room.

Every now and then my daughter sends me to my room. Usually because she sees me hugging or kissing my wife, and she has a zero tolerance policy on PDA. My daughter will walk over to me, grab me by the bottom of my shirt and escort me to my bedroom should she lay eyes on any form of physical affection between my wife and I, and I don’t mind at all. Sometimes she comes right back in a few seconds and I can’t so much as pick up a book off the night stand, but sometimes she sets a timer – which she has no idea how long she is setting it for – and I can get a few pages of light reading in. It’s delightful.

Yet here she is crying and laying on the floor. Does she not realize there’s a shelf of books three feet away from her? Or her CD player and her Disney’s Greatest Hits? Yes that’s right, she has a CD player. She has a few records too. Keeping it low tech keeps Alexa/Google out of the picture and allows you to stay in complete control of the music they listen to. Today its preventing the minor annoyance of “Alexa, play Jingle Bells” in August, but when they get older it will prevent “Alexa, play whatever garbage sounds kids are listening to these days.” I digress.

Anyway, she’s in there acting like I stole her ice cream when all I’ve really done is give her a gift. I wish I got sent to my room more often than I do. Forgot to fill the gas can and now I can’t mow the lawn? I better take a timeout it in my room. Got regular Cheerios and not Honey Nut? I better go think about what I’ve done. Its not even for the reading time, sometimes I’ll just stare out the window. No tears, just a little slice of serenity.

Makes me wish I got punished like a child more often. Not getting dessert seems like a pretty fair penalty for not paying your taxes. Then I’ll have a little bit of peace and quiet, I’ve learned a valuable lesson, and my pants fit better. Everybody wins.

Also makes me wonder where my kids will take this in the future. Maybe when they get older and they have a curfew they’ll give me one too. Home and in bed by 9:30? Yes, please. Don’t get to chaperone a school function? Sign me up. Well, actually don’t sign me up. You get it. Grounded and can’t leave the house? Dare to dream.

I think it could set a good example to show them that I wouldn’t do something to them I wouldn’t have done to myself. And if they don’t like it they can send me to my room.

How Will My Future Kids Mock Present Me?

The other day I was looking at a picture of me and my kids and my first thought was, “That’s a good picture, we look really nice.” My second thought was, “How will this picture age?” Despite how good I think we look in it now, I am sure there will come a time we we look at it and somebody will say, “Oh my god, look at Dad!”

The question is, what about me now will become so mockable in the future? I don’t think I dress like a Dad. I don’t own any clothes that could be described as cargo. I don’t own a pair of white New Balance shoes. I never tuck in a t-shirt. I never tuck in any shirt for that matter. My shorts don’t display an awkward amount of thigh. Will my kids really look back and say, “I can’t believe Dad was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt!” Will I be forced to defend my Under Armor golf shirts as “the style at the time”?

Then again I’m sure fathers throughout history have thought this same thing. Some cave man dad thought he looked fine wearing that pelt he got on their trip to the hot springs while his kids were probably rolling their eyes.

It will probably be the hair. When children get older they are inevitably shocked by the fact that their fathers once had hair. And stylish hair at that. Dad had long hair! Dad had an afro! Dad had perm!

Right now my hair is relatively long, voluminous, and brown. Looking at the generations before me, two of those three aren’t making it past 40. By the time my children are teenagers the recession of my hairline will move from present participle to past tense and the salt will outnumber the pepper, and it will blow their minds I once had to borrow their hair ties to keep these flowing locks out of my eyes. And I’ll run my hands over my head the way an amputee tries to scratch an itch on their lost limb.

One thing I definitely have going for me is not having a mustache. A dad growing a mustache is him placing a permanent time stamp on an era. Any photograph evidence of anything that happens in that time will be from when dad had a mustache.

“Hey kids, check out this picture of your dad at the Super Bowl with Leonardo DiCaprio, The Rock, Barack Obama, and real dinosaur they brought back to life Jurassic Park style!”

“Oh my god, look at dad’s mustache!”

Seeing a Butt: A Parenting Milestone

I knew it would happen eventually, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon. Three years old just seems so young. I figured things like this happen more in the 5th or 6th grade at earliest. Alas, a threshold has been crossed and life will never be the same again. My daughter saw a boy’s butt.

When she came home from school that day it was all she could talk about. Each time telling the story she made it a little further before she burst out laughing. After about a dozen retellings I got the picture. And now that I have heard the story approximately seventeen thousand times over the last few weeks it is forever etched in my memory, replaying over and over like G rated Zapruder film. See how the butt cheeks move back, and to the left.

The story of how she saw Isaac’s butt, has now reached an almost fairly tale status. My daughter tells it as if it took place in some far off place long ago. She begins every fresh recital with a very enthusiastic “One day…” as if I were about to hear a movie trailer for some epic fantasy movie and not about a pre-schooler’s ass crack. The pattern of story telling has completely taken over bed time. My wife and I have appropriated this opening hook to all of the stories. “Once upon a time” is dead and gone forever. Thanks Issac.

Beyond the annoyance of hearing the story over and and over again, there is an innate sense of fatherly protection in me that wants to smack Isaac in the head. I mean, sure butts are funny. I’d by lying if I told you I’ve never shown anybody my hams. But that’s my little girl, and this cannot stand. Maybe I’ll show Issac my butt, and then his parents will have to hear all about how one day he saw a butt.

There is a chance she will forget about it over time, but I know I never will. Whatever that kid goes on to do in life, he will always be the kid that showed my daughter his butt. Part of me hopes they end up going to school together for a while and they stay friends and I can bring this up again in a random situation when they are easily embarrassed pre-teens. Maybe they’ll end up going to high school together and Lucy will be a cheerleader and he’ll be on the football team, and after a play is over and the roar of the crowd dies down you’ll hear “Isaac showed my daughter his butt!” shouted from somewhere in the stands.

Maybe. Though really I am just glad he didn’t turn around.

*Note: Names of children were not changed. That’s right, I’m calling you out Isaac.

Daddy Daughter Dance: A Tragedy in Three Acts

All week I was telling Lucy, my three-year-old, that we’d be going on a special Lucy Daddy Date, a Daddy Daughter Dance at her school. We were looking forward to it for days, and when the day arrived we both just wanted it to be over.

Act I: Tears

Her dress was picked out. A new little sweater was bought just for the occasion. Mommy was going to give her pretty hair. I remember hearing about how long and painful the preparations for things like proms and weddings can be for women, I didn’t realize that training for this starts so young.

While I was getting myself gussied up, my wife was getting Lucy ready in the bathroom so they could have a big reveal when she was ready. While I couldn’t see what was going on, I sure could hear. Screams. Cries. Downright shrieks were coming from the bathroom. Probably throwing some kind of tantrum about wanting her hair a certain way or something I figured, and I kept getting myself dressed. When I walked out of my bedroom I saw her holding the Boo Boo Ducky (a duck shaped ice pack for kids).

The hair curling pole was plugged in and within her reach while they were getting ready. Any guesses what she touched? If you guessed the scorching hot exposed metal of an incredibly poorly designed grooming device – you’re correct! How we are all walking around with super computers in our pockets but women still make their hair a different shape by using a glorified hot iron poker is beyond me.

Anyway, after crying in pain for about a half hour, she really wasn’t in the mood to party. General sobs became outright cries of “I don’t want to go!” Even the lure of cookies and cupcakes that would be at the dance were not enough to change her mind. But we were going to make memories damn it, and we already paid for the ticket, so it was time for bribery. How about some candy now? If you have a sucker now you can take it with you, AND get a cookie when you’re there!

With bandaids on her fingers and a sucker in her mouth we were on our way.

When we walked in it was overwhelming even for me. Tiaras, balloons, streamers, photo booths, obnoxiously loud music, snacks. Where to start?

Lucy: “Can I get a donut?”

Me: “Yes, sweetie.”

Act II: Donuts

We made out way into the school gym full of other little girls and fellow dads and immediately looked for a place to sit and eat our donut. We sat, but she didn’t eat. She just sat there with a sad, disinterested look on her face.

Sad little girl.

I never thought I would have to convince my kid to eat a donut, but she wanted to do nothing at all. So we sat there and I asked questions hoping the answer to one of them would be yes. Want a bite of donut? Want some juice? Do you see any friends from your class? Do you want to dance? Do you want to get our picture taken? Do you like this song? Will you please take pity on your father?

Finally she agreed yes, she wanted to go look at the photo booth, but only if I carried her. She put the sucker back in her mouth, we wrapped the donut up in a napkin and we make our way across the gym. On this journey through a swirling mass of daddies and daughters something jumped out at me. Somewhere around the age of what looked like second graders, attire changed from cute little dresses to prom dresses – some simple, some downright fancy. I assume the fancy dress girls belong to the three piece suit dads. I decided when Lucy gets older I hope she is friends with the kids of a simple shirt and tie dad.

Upon arrival at the photo booth, Lucy says she doesn’t want to get her picture taken, but would rather go sit back down and eat her donut.We find a new place to sit, unwrap he donut, and discover that the juice box was left behind. I assume its been thrown away or stolen by a prom queen of tomorrow, so I carry her back out into the hallway with our wrapped up donut to get a new juice box.

After being smooshed in my hand while I carry her, the donut is by now just crumbs loosely held together by frosting, but she eats it and I see a glimpse of her usual self as we make silly faces back and forth as we eat. I remember the table of tiaras we passed when we walked in and ask if she wants to go get a princess crown. She said yes – we’re on a roll! The sucker is back in her mouth and we are on our way.

Little girl clings to Daddy.

With a boost of confidence that I assume comes standard with a tiara, we go back into the gym to give the photo booth another shot. Provided of course that I carry her. While waiting in line I ask if she wants to me to put her down and dance. She clings tighter at the suggestion. When it is almost our turn for the photo booth, the DJ stops the music to make an announcement. It’s princess time.

Act III: Princesses

The homecoming queens of Christmas future rush the stage as soon as Anna and Elsa appear. I hold Lucy up a little higher so she can see. I point out Cinderella, Tianna, Belle, and Arielle. She knows them all, she loves them all. She is utterly unmoved by their presence.

Daddy Daughter Dance Picture

Our turn for the photo booth is next when the princesses disperse from the stage to various places in the gym, including our photo booth. As luck would have it, ours turned out to be the Anna and Elsa booth. Surely this will get a positive reaction. She sings or listens to something from Frozen literally every day. Maybe she’ll sing! Maybe she’s dance! She clings to me and hides behind her sucker.

I try dancing with her a little, she stays stone faced. I take her to more princesses – Tianna said she likes her dress! Might as well said there’s no Easter Bunny. Lucy asks if she can have a cookie. Sure kiddo, why not.

A second sugary pick me up helps. She asks if she can go see Belle and she lets me put her down for the first time all night. She puts her sucker back in her mouth and we walk back into the gym. After staring at Belle without saying or doing anything, she walks around for a few minutes trying to get a balloon. Its the happiest she’s been all night and we get some good selfies out of it.

Daddy and Daughter Silly Faces

Sadly, while making some silly faces the sucker (which miraculously has lasted well over an hour at this point), falls out of her mouth and cracks on the gym floor. I try to get her to dance a little more or see some more princesses, but at this point we are both over it. I ask if she wants to go home and she silently nods.

As we walk back to the truck the cold air feels good and we can see lots of stars in the sky.

Lucy: “It was loud in there.”

Me: “I know.”

Lucy: “When we get home, can we watch a movie.”

Me: “Yes, sweetie.”

The Morning Routine Includes Frostbite

Getting out the door on time in the morning doesn’t happen on its own. Little people must be hurried along. Every step of the process needs to be asked for at least five times before I end up doing it anyway. We need to leave the house on time to get to the little one’s daycare on time to get to the big one’s pre-school on time so I can get to work at a reasonable time. Our morning routine runs like a New Zealand watch. (Fun Fact: New Zealand is exactly opposite from Switzerland.)

It is very common that I forget something in the process, though usually it is something minor like brushing my own teeth. But hey, after a cup of coffee at the office who’d know the difference anyway.

This morning was a little or hectic than usual. The little kid was crabby about everything, and the big kid want to “help”, which consisted mostly of constantly handing me my keys that I then set back down on the counter next to my phone and wallet. I put them there so I easily grab them all before I go out the door. FORESHADOWING!

After fighting the miniature lady to get her socks, boots, jacket, and mittens on – because it was 15 degrees outside – we were finally almost basically to go. I remote started my truck to get it nice and warm, then I just had to brush my own teeth (hey, I remembered) and pack my own lunch. While I was putting leftover pizza in a baggie my “helper” brought me my keys. I put my pizza in my computer satchel, grabbed the kids backpack and lunches, grabbed my phone and wallet, and we were out the door which I locked behind me.

Somewhere between my third and fourth step out the door noticed my keys weren’t in my front right pants pocket. Surely then they must be in my jacket pocket, right? Right?!? How about the other pocket? Or that other pocket over there? Good god man how many pockets does a jacket really need to have?!?

In all my live I had never used more self control than I did in that moment trying not to drop an A-bomb of an F-bomb in front of my kids. To my credit, all I dropped were the bags I was carrying as I dashed back to the door to check, double check, and triple check that it really was locked for real. Which of course it was.

The front door! We used that yesterday, maybe we were irresponsible home owners and left that unlocked over night. That sounds like us. Unfortunately, responsibility prevailed last night. Locked.

Windows! I can pop out a screen an slide one open, no problem. Expect its February in Michigan, we haven’t opened a window in three months. All locked.

At this point I started to weigh my options. I could kick the door in. Pro – always wanted to do that. Con – gonna have to fix that later. I could break a window. Pro – seems like fun. Con – seems more expensive than a door jamb. The little window in the shower doesn’t really lock, it just sort of latches. I bet it could find a way to wiggle that lose and drop one of the kids in there. Pro – the most McGyver like option and an opportunity for family bonding. Con – possibility of dropping kid in their head in the bathtub and they won’t have their wits about them to remember to go open the door for daddy.

I began calling my wife repeatedly. She works in a dentist office, so she can’t have her phone on her but I figured trying a dozen or so times can’t hurt. Luckily she hadn’t seen her first patient of the day yet and she glanced at her phone. A quick conversation later and she was on her way. Now we just had to hold out for twenty or so minutes in the cold. Which is all mental. 15 degrees you say? Nonsense, feels like at least 17! Pass me a daiquiri!

The kiddos on the other hand were starting to break. Cheeks and noses were redder than they were rosy. Playing in the snow became more standing still and poking the snow with a stick. Then came, “Daddy, its cold.”

A scan of the neighbors houses showed they’d already left for work. The garage would stop the wind, but it wouldn’t stop the cold. But at least were were only feet from my truck which had the heat cranked since I remote started it. What a special torture that was.

I decided to walk to the coffee shop about a half mile away. It will be an adventure! I can carry the little one and the big one can walk, and when we get there – hot chocolate for all! Dad of the year!

Going as fast as three-year-old legs can go (which is not very fast all), I was making my way through the bitter cold with my children to find find our refuge. And cocoa. And wifi. Just like the pioneers.

We got about half way there when I saw my wife’s van come into view. She blew right past us. She went to the house to get it unlocked and my truck started back up, and I turned us around and walked back. By the time we got home the little one was crying and snotty-faced. The big one was very confused. I was going to be late. But hey, at least I ended up getting to walk that full half mile.

Baby Bumps Are Weird

My wife is currently 7ish months pregnant with our third child. Several times a day I am prompted to look at the baby kick here or there, wiggle this way or that, or just see how generally lumpy he’s making my wife’s stomach. Having been through this twice before now, the novelty has worn off, and to be totally honest – a baby protruding out of my wife was never my favorite thing in the first place.

I assume that sounds terrible to some people. I mean, how can I not be amazed by the miracle of life? It is amazing, it is a miracle, it is wonderful. It is also gross and weird. The first time I felt our first baby kick, my reaction wasn’t so much awed wonder as it was recoiled shock. Two more babies have not changed that.

Worse than a little kick or punch is a full on wiggle. Seeing a tiny little wave roll across my wife’s belly gives me the jibblies. Feeling it will have me pulling away as if I just touched a hot stove.

Literally as I type this my wife just asked me, “You didn’t just touch me did you?” I am at least 2 feet away from her, so, no I didn’t. “I just felt something way over here,” she said pointing to her side. “Creepy baby.” – Her words, not mine.

Whenever she complains about the pains and discomforts of being pregnant and the experience of actually giving birth, I always tell her “but then you get a baby!” I often remind myself of the same thing when she asks me to “come feel this hard part right here.” I always assume any hard part is the butt. I don’t know why. Maybe because I’d rather it be that than feel like I’m giving my unborn baby a noogie. Baby after they are born – noogies all day. Baby still in utero – noogies are mean.

Before I had any kids I always knew the birth part would be gross, but I never expected that out of the pregnancy. I expected pickle cravings, trips for ice cream at odd hours of the night, feeling hot when its 30 out, feeling cold when its 90 out, and remodel after remodel of the baby’s room. I did not see being weirded out by the belly. It also just dawned on me that perhaps my entire perception of what pregnancy is like for a husband was shaped by Father of the Bride Part 2.

The Manliest Parker I’ve Ever Seen

I’ve never been so thoroughly impressed and intimidated by another man as I was when I saw a man park.

I was dropping my daughter off at pre-school like I do almost every morning. I pulled into the drop-off parking lot and I pulled into a spot just like every other car in the parking lot, which was maybe half full. Then I saw a man in an SUV pull into the lot and for no particular reason at all – back into a spot.

What a move. Absolute alpha right there. No reason to do it other than he wanted to and he could. Parking lot was half empty, could have parked anywhere. The lot is the drop off loop with just one way in and one way out, so no strategic value to being able to pull out of the spot to leave. Just wanted to spread his hearty musk all over that parking space.

I bet he backs into his drive way at home which is always perfectly shoveled and salted in the winter. In the summer I bet he sits in his car an extra minute before getting out to admire his lawn which is greener than Kermit’s ass.

I bet he backs into his spot at the butcher shop before going inside to get his meat which he will grill to a perfect medium rare every damn time. And yeah, that’s right, he gets his meat from the butcher whom he knows by name.

I bet he backs into his spot at the golf course before going out and shooting par. I bet he even backs his golf car up to the green before sinking his putt. He never two-putts.

I bet he backs into his spot at the Home Depot when he goes there to get new stain for his deck. That he built himself. Which is always immaculate. That he sits on and smokes cigars. Good ones.

I bet he backs into his spot at the doctor when he goes for his regular prostate exam, because he’s responsible like that.

I bet he backs into his spot at the gym when he goes there to work on his abs, which are visible.

I bet his kid backs their little Power Wheels car into a tiny little parking spot in the back yard before going inside to eat their vegetables.

This other dad is really in my head. And he backed in there perfectly.

How To Use Your Kids to Get Free Pancakes

With a three-year-old and an almost two-year-old, going out to eat is pretty much never a relaxing time for me and my wife. It is more about entertaining than eating. Even if the restaurant is very kid friendly and has crayons and a menu they can color, that buys about 5 minutes until all the crayons are on the floor, the menu is torn, and we start praying the Cheerios last until the food comes. Which it probably won’t, and we’ll start playing Three Card Monte with sugar packets. Find the Splenda kids!

We know this, and yet we go out anyway. Partly because it is good for everybody to get out of the house and the kids need to learn to behave in public, and partly because we really don’t feel like cooking. Breakfast works the best for us. We can be in and out before anybody needs a nap or has had time to do anything so bad they don’t get to go.

Last Sunday we went out to breakfast and had a very normal time. Lucy (my three-year-old) colored, dropped some crayons, stacked and counted the coffee creamers, and tried to stand up to look at the people sitting behind us. Very standard, very acceptable. Evie (my 21-or-so-month-old) wasn’t great, but not terrible either. Despite our assurances that it would not end well for her, she kept putting her feet up on the table. After we told her no and made her stay in her booster seat, she cried. My wife took her to walk around, and when Lucy saw that Evie got to get up from the table, she was suddenly jealous and started to cry too. All par for the eating in public course.

The food came, they stopped crying, we ate pancakes, and a perfectly average time was had by all. When the waitress brought the bill she said, “Just so you know, there is nothing for you to pay. Somebody wanted to pick up your check.”

Naturally, my first thought was “I wish I ordered the full stack of pancakes and not the half.” But I was honestly shocked and very grateful. Who was this? And old friend? A kind stranger picking up random checks? Nope.

The waitress said they wanted to stay anonymous, but they saw us with two little kids and another one on the way and thought we would appreciate the help. Pity? Did I just eat pity pancakes? Does my completely ordinary family breakfast look like such a circus to outsiders that they feel compelled to help my wretched soul put food in the mouths of my snot-faced children? Maybe. And I’m ok with that.

If they perceived me as in over my head like some kind of sitcom dad who is about to be wearing his kid’s pancakes as a hat, that’s cool. Free pancakes for me. Perhaps that should be the new strategy? Sandbag my parenting skills when eating in public. Always appear to be balancing on the edge of a breakdown in front of older couples who never had kids and now the the disposable income to spend on other people’s breakfasts to show for it. Play the oafish sitcom dad card one farmer’s omelette at a time.

The truth is I probably don’t need to do that because I’m probably already there, whether I know it or not. I’ve rushed a crying kid out of the restaurant, I’ve chased them from one table of strangers to the next, I’ve gotten back in the car to head home only to realize somebody only had one shoe. All at the same brunch. But hey, that’s normal.

So thank you kind stranger for buying my family breakfast, it was greatly appreciated. And perhaps you saw something I didn’t, because not two minutes after you picked up our check, in our attempt to get jackets on and out the door we forgot to get our parking validated. After our free breakfast, we paid an extra $8 for parking.