Early on, thanks to Dad's musical tastes, we discovered that the most soothing, soporific lullabies for infants include any with a walking bass line by Steel Pulse. Then, thanks to the kids' toddler years, we discovered that the favorite band for irie men in their late thirties is The Wiggles. (True, Veggie Tales tunes are also great, but they get Chris too revved up and we have to increase his Ritalin.)
When she was 3, Mikaela had a lingering cough for a few days following a cold and she milked it for all it was worth - which was, not coincidentally, attention from Mom when her newborn sister was nursing. Chris took charge and strictly forbade any future coughing-for-effect. Of course, it had none other than the predictable, expected result (a parent to anyone but a father): Mikaela's scratchy throat continued for a full year. Satisfied with a parenting job well decreed, Chris complacently left to go to the office every day and I got to take Mikaela to cough at playgroups, parks, nature classes & library storytimes where I received a daily dose of "the look" from complete strangers - what kind of mother would drag around a [not] sick child like that?
Their dad has always been a devoted companion for the girls' imaginary play. Each year in December, he would take his place on Santa-Mikaela's sleigh-sofa, squeezing in beside the other elves - MacKenzo, Socko & Katrianna - and fly throughout the land looking for good little girls and boys deserving of presents. Some days, he'd even come home & regale them with news brought directly from Saint Nick himself, who happened to be seen at our neighborhood Target stuffing his "magic Santa pocket" (versatile spandex, Perseus) full of innumerable toys of all descriptions. My, what delightful fun! Until that afternoon when Santa sent a note stating that if a cantankerous Mikaela kept refusing to cooperate with her "very cool dude" father, she'd find only lumps of coal in her stocking on Christmas morn. OH HO, a very original and clever ploy, Chris Kringle! Until Mikaela noticed that Santa's message was written on an Intel post-it note -- exactly the same kind that Mikaela had earlier written "6 AND 3!!!" on & stuck to Chris' computer screen so he would correctly state his daughters' ages when clients asked.
As a former member of the #1 squad in Houston's premier amateur soccer league, Chris was primed (well, just past his prime) to turn his talents to coaching Mikaela's youth team. He spent practices diligently working with the children to perfect the most important skill in football: how to celebrate a score by stretching out one's arms & running circles around the field yelling ¡Gooooooolllllllllll! like Univision's Andreas Cantor. The kids loved it! Well, loved it at practices anyway, since going 0-8 for two consecutive seasons really did not allow for too many game-time display opportunities. [Check out Chris' soccer blog]
When we started globeschooling, Chris happily moved over to let me take the driver's seat - 15 minutes at a stretch (plus a yawn and then he's usually asleep for the next 15 hours). His main way to prepare for our trips is to plan all the ways he can back out of them at the last minute. Once we're on the road, though, he defies the stereotype about men getting lost & refusing to ask for directions. A 21st century, tech-liberated kind of guy, he not only buys several maps for each trip, but also insists we listen to the GPS voice navigation system (when it comes complimentary on rent cars). That way, he's covered every contingency and when we get lost - as we always do when he's in charge of directions - we can be sure to get lost as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some people go for unlimited mileage; others content themselves with unlimited options for choosing the wrong way to go.
These days, Dad willingly plays Monopoly with the girls. That all-American game that teaches such important values: the value of math fluency in everyday life, the value of money management, the value of planning ahead, and, most importantly, the value of cheating without getting caught. No, that's the old, outdated Monopoly everyone knows. And, frankly, they're tiring of it. So, we're on the waitlist for the new & improved, more realistic edition. Where you still learn the value of cheating, but also the value of getting caught, so you can position your company to receive a government subsidized bailout (in the billions of dollars, not measly Boardwalk thousands) and a golden personal parachute compensation package that'll keep you flying high all the way to your 85th birthday. . .
With respect to Model Parenting, he takes a slightly different approach. Chris leads by counter example. It's a variation on 'Do as I say, not as I do' which he contends builds character by providing the girls a healthy chance to resist negative influences. For downright-bodacious example, although he grew up in India & still has remnants of a British accent, he revels (and rebels) in talkin' like a Texan. To Mikaela's chagrin, he employs every Southern turn of phrase & inflection and drawls out their linguistic delivery. The eye-rolling grammarian can't hardly stand it - "Daaaad, that's a double negative!" (A typical hypo critical tween, Mikaela prefers to be singularly negative instead.) Master of reverse psychology, Chris tells the girls, "Simply find a guy who doesn't do these things - that's the key to a happy marriage, just ask Mom."
For all academic subject(ivitie)s, our homeschooling dad consistently demonstrates that the overwhelming male need to know all the answers supersedes logical thought. He is unable to utter the words "I don't know" in the presence of his children. For the last several years, we've focused on one particular whopper that came to symbolize them all. We were studying the history of flight (getting ready for the girls' first plane ride - can't do anything around here without making it "educational") and Chris explained that the use of Concorde jets had been discontinued due to all of the sonic booms produced when they kept breaking the sound barrier. Now I knew that fuel costs plus ticket prices for the supersonic time-busters had been exorbitant and was also under the impression that safety issues had ultimately grounded them, so I never bothered to check. As any good wife - not to mention educator - would do in this situation, at the speed of sound, I led the children in ridiculing their father (my life's Catcalling). "Oh c'mon, Chris, that's just plane wrong! Exactly how many sonic booms per day were they having with all those Concorde flights to Paris?" From then on, nearly any theory offered by their venerated father on any subject earned the immediate classification of "sound barrier" and was promptly disregarded (after pausing for a traditional moment of derisive laughter). Ahh, how quickly time flies...
In honor of Father's Day this year, the girls begged me to let them guest blog. Their subject? "Sound Barriers" They'd made a list of Dad's best knowledgeable nuggets and were all set to start it off with a Boom! Due to my journalistic integrity, which will allows nothing but strict adherence to the facts, I decided I better google it. Ah ha, I was right, so I called Chris over to look - in the interest of fairness and edification, mind you, not to rub it in. Then, he googled it. Unbelievable, Wikipedia had his back! M&K were undeterred and wanted to proceed with the other 49 irrefutable Dad facts, but the truth is that I was too shook up - dumbstruck, you might even say. What if he was right about the others, too? The girls' list will have to wait until next Father's Day - so we can conscientiously verify its inauthenticities, as well as to allow ample time for researching my Wikipedia conspiracy theory: 1) Chris hacked into their system unbeknownst to the editorial staff, or 2) all of the entries written for Wikipedia are in fact written by fathers similarly afflicted by Sound Barrieritis. I wonder if Oliver Stone is onto this? Honestly, I always thought it was called "mendacity" because men have a much higher capacity to supremely exemplify its many forms. (Hey, anyone seen my hot tin roof? Alas, let she who is without sin cast the first Brick...)
It's the universal truism of fatherhood - there really should be nothing knew under the son (or daughters), should there?
Finally, as Chris likes to remind me several times an hour, this family's blog would not be possible without his generous support, technical know-how and editorial advice. Even Mikaela has noticed his invaluable contributions: "Mom, do you think the people who read your blog miss as many of the jokes as Dad does?"