Tonawanda News — The time as I write this is 5:10 a.m. Rigby beckoned me out of bed a half-hour ago for his new trick — “Daddy, come see what I can do.”
Any pre-dawn grogginess escaped in a hurry when I saw Rigby atop the foot end of Penny’s bed, a little princess number meant to emulate a castle.
“He’s 3. He should not be able to look me in the eye,” I expertly reasoned through the haze that accompanies another five-hour night of sleep.
He was quite proud, though. He was perched like Michael Phelps set to commence another 100-meter backstroke, ready to pounce on his unsuspecting big sister.
I grabbed him and put him back into his bed, but I knew the war was already lost. Five minutes of wrangling led nowhere, and Rigby had already woken his mother up with his fussing, so downstairs we went, ready to begin another day that wouldn’t end until after I got home from work at 12:30 the next morning.
Welcome to a typical Friday of fatherhood.
Things are certainly not how I thought they’d be as I enter my fifth Father’s Day with children. I spent most of the day before cleaning up the kids’ play room (and, right on cue, Rigby just dumped out his bucket of superheroes) and mowing the lawn. I also went to my parents’ house to reclaim my childhood mattress for Penny, who received a bed upgrade as part of her move to a different bedroom (the kids took the bigger room with dividers put in for a touch of privacy).
The early mornings, puke pick-ups and incessant diaper changings are an expected part of this whole “siring children” thing. But days such as yesterday were not foreseen. Nor was the fact that I’d receive such satisfaction out of spending my entire day off from work doing things around the house. I used to spend my down time sleeping, going to sporting events and attempting to defy the odds at local gaming establishments, and now here I am happily engaging in household chores instead.
And I was uncharacteristically happy, too. All I did, in reality, is return the house to its expected state — ya know, toys on the right shelves, dirty dishes in the dishwasher, dirty laundry in the basement, simple stuff. But I felt like Maximus gesturing to the Roman mob after another gladiator slaying by the time I was done. I should not have been that content. Yet I was.
To be fair, though, I didn’t spend the entire day doing chores. I spent a portion of the evening fulfilling a promise to Penny to watch a “Star Wars” movie so that she would have some idea about what’s going on when we go to “Star Wars Night” at the Buffalo Bisons game this coming weekend. She liked the spaceships, robots and aliens, which is about what I could ask of a 4-year-old. And I got to pass down my knowledge of and love for a beloved film franchise, which is what fatherhood is all about (or maybe it’s about making the kids love something that drives Mommy nuts — either way, mission accomplished).
But, upon pondering the issue, that doesn’t really seem to be my role here. It seems instead that dads are meant to continuously reassemble quickly crumbling games. Like “Don’t Break the Ice,” which Rigby will make me put together for an hour, utilizing five minutes putting the plastic ice cubs in for every eight seconds he spends breaking apart — complete with the “Hulk smash” grin on his face — or the Emperor Zurg gun he insists you attach to Buzz Lightyear’s wings. I mean, doesn’t he get that the pieces aren’t meant to go together, so every time he moves Buzz’s arm the gun is going to pop out of place? Yet he keeps bringing it back every four minutes complaining that I didn’t correctly assemble it. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault!
Um, but I digress. As much fun as that is, I’m not sure that’s the truly what fatherhood is all about. No, it’s about everything else. That is, it’s about when you find your son’s Buzz Lightyear turbo blaster while cleaning the playroom and he gives you a grunting bear hug for your effort.
It’s about the joy you expect to see on your daughter’s face next week during her moving up day at pre-K.
It’s about how you plan a trip to Disneyland not to enjoy the park yourself, but watch your babies revel in acres of Disney greatness.
It’s about struggling for an hour to get an old box spring from the second floor of your parent’s house just so that your daughter can feel more like a big girl with a marginally larger bed.
It’s about engaging in one of your favorite hobbies — thrift store shopping — and getting the most satisfaction out of finding a little Syracuse Orange football jersey for your son to wear next fall than in unearthing any treasures for yourself.
It’s about giving everything you have to ensure your kids’ happiness, waking up bone-tired then doing it again, day after day.
It’s about picking up the bucket of play tools seven times a day.
And it’s about sharing with the next generation why “Episode V” is the best “Star Wars” movie in the series.
Happy Father’s Day.
Contact Paul Lane