In the Age of Parenting Fathers

Fathers’ Day is the ultimate afterthought. Mothers’ Day was originally celebrated in 1908 in the United States. Like the small-engine tools that so many fathers will receive and/or use today, Fathers’ Day took a few yanks—and generations—to get going. President Coolidge primed the pump in 1924. Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith gave a tug in 1957. LBJ proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day in ’66 but tricky Dick was the one who finally made it law in 1972. I was born in 1974 so Father’s Day has been around for my entire life. But not my brother’s.

Also worth noting: they picked the month after Mother’s Day to honor fathers, which is to say the month after school gets out. Among the last activities in which young students will participate as the school year winds down is to make Mother’s Day cards and presents. Sorry dads, no laminated poems and artwork for you. Like I said: afterthought. Continue Reading

Mother-in-Love

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My mother-in-law Barbara playing corn hole on the FSU set she gave me for my birthday, she of the Go Gator UF fandom.

Who says you can’t enjoy your in-laws?

I liked my mother-in-law Barbara from the first time I met her. She listened to my boring stories and laughed at the appropriate places. She didn’t want my help in the kitchen, instead allowing me to read or write, things for which I have less time at home. She brought me drinks, something I have yet to train my wife to do, and even let me bring my dog Stinko Princess into her immaculate home. My own house is a mess and I never wanted Stinko inside, so that shows the extent of Barbara’s graciousness.

The Juliano family came from up north, specifically from a place Barbara still calls Lowang Ahland 30 years after immigrating to Florida. I adjusted quickly to their three-food-group diet of meat, pasta, and guilt, but I must admit their family’s relational style took some getting used to. They brought with them that loud, boisterous Italo-Catholic-New York sensibility that says feelings are good and should be shared, especially feelings like disappointment (“You’re doing that all wrong.”), honesty (“It’s not what I wanted.”), helpfulness (“Tsk. Here, let me do it.”), and empathy (“You’re a pain in the ass.”). These are typically directed at my wife Aimee and her sister Alyson who give back as good as they get. In their family yelling, cursing, and hanging up on one another are just means of message clarity. At the same time, Aimee and Barbara speak on the phone almost every day, even if briefly, and obviously love one another; those white-hot emotions run both ways. Continue Reading

The Competitor

“Get the ball, Zander!” I screamed. From the sideline I could see my son on the soccer field running circles around the other children as he does every week. Unfortunately, he was doing it in the literal sense, orbiting the small group of four-year-olds struggling to free the undersized ball from a tangle of little legs. When the ball popped out, it landed, as it often did, right in front of my boy. He smiled from ear to ear and waited patiently for another child to take the ball so he could continue his pursuit and encirclement, throwing a few elbows and occasionally tackling, but never meaningfully playing the game.

I slapped my forehead. I did not need to see Zander score a goal or be on the winning team, but I was desperate to see him compete, to try, but his best run of the night had been west on a north-south field, dashing for the fence while the other children watched from the sideline, waiting for the ball to be returned. With the ball back in play I screamed, “You can kick the ball, Zander!” Continue Reading