Tag Archives: improv

The things I used to do…

Things That I Used to Do by Muddy Waters

The way I’m raising my kids is slightly different than the way my parents raised me.  Well, let’s face it, the way I’m raising my kids is a lot different than how I was raised.

That’s not a criticism of my parents, in fact I’d kill to be able to give my kids the upbringing that I had.  I just can’t do it.  Life got in the way of the best laid plans, I suppose you could say.

Here’s what’s different: I was raised by my father and mother, both, and they did a really good job.  Sure, I do things a bit differently, I’m a different person with similar genetic makeup.  Some things are the same.  I say things once in awhile and my oldest daughter says things like: “god, you sound like Grandpa” and I kind of like that.  I admire my father, he’s the greatest man I know.  I also admire my mother, who had to be one of the strongest women I’ve ever met to raise three strong-willed and sarcastic sons.

My Mom is a nurse.  She never got her certification, she got married and stayed home to take care of us.  I never looked at her as less of a person or less capable as anyone else because she was whip-smart, stern, and could be the most loving person I’d ever met.  I know, because I tended to, as a little kid, need more care and attention because I was very sick.  There was no way she could have worked, if she wanted to, because I was in and out of the hospital.  Every person who tries to tell me or my kids that a woman – who is like my Mom, anyway – who stays home either isn’t working or is contributing less to our society angers me more when they make those crass statements.

I would kill to be able to stay home.  Not because I’m lazy but because there are too many things with too little time to do them all.  When my wife was around we had basketball games, school plays, Boy Scouts, all of that.  Extracurricular activities were like any other family.  I volunteered at school – a lot – and so did my wife.

When I was a kid I did all that, too.  My Mom had dinner ready, there was no scramble, at least that we were aware of, and we always got to things on-time.  My older brother didn’t always come to our events, but I didn’t expect him to, either.  My Mom was home and we ate early on nights we had a play or what have you and we got home and the routine seemed to hold.  My Dad, in his busiest years, still managed to meet us at the school plays and games.  Basketball games . . . he drove us to those himself.  My Mom drove us to state music contests on the other side of the state.  All that was available.

I don’t have that routine the way she did.  There’s no other person there to help and everything’s a mad scramble.  Tonight was a perfect example of that.  I was texting Abbi, my oldest, on what temperature to put a small ham in the oven.  I had leftover rice for the side.  I raced home, but traffic was a nightmare.  There’s no other person to wrangle the kids, so Abbi had already left for her drama department’s “Improv Night.”  I got home at 6:30pm and cut the ham, laid out the plates on the table, and raced out the door.  I got to the school right about 6:59pm.  Two hours later, my ribs appropriately tickled and I gave my daughter a hug and told her she made me laugh.  It made her smile.

So, yeah, if I’d been smart I’d have cornered the market on lottery tickets (I didn’t, it was raining and I had no time) and prayed that I get a portion of that Powerball tomorrow.  Instead, though, I powered through.  My three kids ate.  I would eat later.  It’s not a punishment and it’s not that I’m complaining.  I’ve missed meals.  I’ve skipped several in a day, in fact, only to realize at midnight I was starving.  I thought to myself on the way to that theater that I might have messed things up a bit.  I’m only one person, after all.

But when I opened the door and walked in the theater, there, peeking around other actors, was Abbi.  She was content, but when she saw me walk in her face lit up, and her eyes sparkled.  That snuggly little bear of mine – now a woman I suppose – was happy.  I remembered that look, that feeling, when I’d peek through the curtain and see my Mom and Dad sitting in the audience.  They never missed a show.

I don’t raise my kids the same way.  Still, I got a few things right.

Abbi doing improv

Silence speaks volumes

I left Friday night in the hands of my now 18-year-old daughter.  It’s amazing the things that happen when that date hits.  The Social Security Administration tells me her checks have to come directly to her bank account.  That’s not something that bothers me at all, the money’s always been used for her anyway.  Not fancy gadgets or trips or anything…we eat, pay the allowable part of rent, all that with the kids’ checks.  We have to reach a point where we’re able to survive without out it next year anyway.

At 18 I don’t have to sign notes for the school . . . at 18 she can decide to be on-camera or join groups or what have you.

The advantage is that I trust my daughter.  I know much of the details of her life without her even realizing it, I suppose.  If she did I’m not certain it would surprise her that awful much.

I’ve tried very hard to raise independent, smart, and outspoken daughters.  Not the kind who would give in to anyone – let alone a guy – just because it’s easy.  Ones who wouldn’t end up feeling awkward if they’re not comfortable doing what the crowd does.  Ones who don’t like the idea of being so plastered or stoned because it’s not “enhancing” their lives, it’s really numbing them and killing those amazing synapses in their heads.  Ones that won’t give in to some guy who says he needs to have sex with them for their relationship to be worthwhile.

At the same time, though, my daughter has told me in no uncertain terms that “you’re just not the typical guy, Dad.”  I don’t know that the statement was made as a compliment at the time.  Basically, my disdain for using other people doesn’t translate to the real world well.  It’s one of the reasons I have a close cadre of real friends and the rest . . . well, they’re more colleagues or acquaintances.  I’d help them if asked, and I’m friends with them.  But those closest . . . if they called and needed help, even at a moment’s notice, I’d jump on a plane or boat or bungee cord to get to them if they needed help.

But this weekend Abbi wanted her birthday to carry over to a party with her friends.  We couldn’t pull off the party.  Abbi made no decisions on what to do.  My finances were limited.  Nothing was working the way she wanted.  Ultimately, in my search through events we found an event in Cupertino, CA – three hours away.  The men from the show “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” were performing the show live . . . and DeAnza College in the Bay Area.  Sure, I thought it sounded fun.  These four 18-year-old girls, though, they are drama kids.  They were enamored with the idea of seeing an improv show.

So I left this in Abbi’s hands.  She had to split the cost since I’d already bought her a dress and still have to fix her phone which she dropped in the sink while apparently doing her hair and texting at the same time.  (She’s been without a phone for more than a month, by the way.  While I hate having to fix it, having her without it is killing me in terms of how to keep everyone in line and in contact)  She had to figure out how to get her siblings, drive them to her aunt’s house an hour away; get home and pick up her friends; drive to my shop in Sacramento; then hit the road.

She managed it.  Her aunt watched the other three for the night.  I got to drive . . . with four teenage girls for three hours each way to Cupertino and back.

I got about 10 words in, I think.

I don’t mind, though.

You’d be amazed the things you leave by being the fly on the wall in that kind of environment.  Sure, I know they weren’t ever going to say more than they wanted.  I’m the adult in there, after all.  But still . . . I know which guys are “players” and which ones are nice.  I know who they each think are cute and who they have crushes on.  No, none of them said it explicitly, but I’m a journalist.  Tone of voice speaks volumes.

So does silence.

I learned a lot on that car ride.  More than anything, it was to fight the urge to be a guy.  When I heard conversations, or thought my daughter was going over-the-top in her comments or they had a heated discussion about how their classes were going (or not going) I wanted so badly to say something.  Guys, you see, want to fix everything.

But I had to put myself in the position of understanding this wasn’t my conversation, not really.  What good would it do, anyway?  Did I honestly think the same conversation hadn’t been held a dozen times or more before?

So yes . . . I kept silent.  It wasn’t hard, I don’t know there were any pauses in the conversation.

But still . . . I’m a Dad.  I made sure there were a few embarrassing stories of Abbi’s childhood thrown in for good measure.

Like the time she climbed on the roof on Thanksgiving day. . . Oh . . .but that’s a story for another time.