Archive for 2012

Interviewing for ‘Daddy’

Posted by Doug White under Personal

The stern looking man in the expensive suit looked at me and with a slightly disapproving look said,  “Welcome Mr. White, I see you have applied for the job of ‘Daddy’.  Would you be willing to share with us what qualifies you for the job?”

Putting my hands together in a thoughtful way I replied, “Well, I have been a Dad now for over 15 years and I believe I have gained much experience in this arena.  I’d like to share with you three particular stories that might emphasize my qualifications for this job.”

Event 1

It had been a long winter day for my wife.  The kids had been pulling on that last nerve of hers most of the day and I knew it was only a matter of time before the destructive force of my wife’s wrath would be felt by all.  I told my wife that I would take the kids and get out of the house for a short time and give her a chance to relax and unwind.

Several hours later, the three of us were headed back to the house after properly gorging ourselves on popcorn and soda at the local movie theater.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, my wife had just drawn herself a nice warm bath and was immersing herself into it with a sigh of contentment.

I was entering the house when I heard my youngest – about 3 at the time – say, “I’m going to put my tongue on that.”  Before I could stop her, she had stuck her tongue onto the cold metal railing and was promptly stuck.

I had a brief moment of panic before I did what any quick thinking father would do – I yanked her back from the railing.  With a small “pop” her tongue unfastened and she was good to go.  I mentally patted myself on the back for my quick thinking as I continued to enter into the house until my oldest exclaimed, “Daddy!  Look!”

I turned and looked at my youngest and saw blood running from her mouth.  Horrified, I did what any quick thinking father would do – I picked her up and ran into the bathroom – and yelled to my wife for help.

Event 2

My wife was gone for the afternoon shopping with a friend.  It was a beautiful day outside and the kids were enjoying playing with their friends.  I was also enjoying myself working in my flower beds.  One of the neighbor kids had decided he wanted to bring over his pet ferret and show it to my youngest.  She asked me if it was ok and using that age old wisdom that Dad’s have I told her that it was.

The boy brought over the ferret and put it on the ground.  Like a magnet the furry little monster raced over to my little one, who had decided to take her shoes off at that time and bit her on the foot.  It was at this point that I used my extensive knowledge of how to operate a cell phone and quickly called my wife to see what I needed to do to prevent my daughter from getting rabies or some other terrible disease I knew she was sure to get.

Event 3

The kids periodically like to go up to the local school and play in the playground and were only allowed to do so as long as I came along.  Since the kids also were of an age where playing with their dad had become boring, this usually entailed me sitting on a bench trying not to fall asleep and slump into the gravel below.

On this day I had decided to bring a book and was deep in the escapades of one of my favorite authors when I heard the phrase “blind tag”.  The phrase slipped over my consciousness as I continued on in my reading.

What I didn’t realize is the kids had invented a game called “Blind Tag” where some of them would hide and one would try to find them but that person would do so with their eyes closed.  My youngest was “it” at the time and she was walking with her hands outstretched so that she wouldn’t hit anything.

However, she hadn’t anticipated the very likely scenario of her hands being on either side of a pole.  My head snapped out of my book as I heard a loud thud as my beautiful little girl walked smack into the pole she had missed.

I rushed my daughter back home to find out from my wife – who by now was mentally telling herself she can never leave our daughters side ever again – if there was any possibility that our youngest had a concussion.

The man looked at me, slightly aghast, “Well sir, I have to admit, those stories give me great pause!  Why on earth would you ever think you qualify for the position we’re offering?”

Calmly, I responded back to him, “I believe each of these events have taught me a great deal about being a ‘Daddy’.”

Raising an eyebrow he exclaimed, “What, pray tell would that be?”

“Well, I learned for starters, how NOT to remove a child whose tongue is stuck on a metal railing.  In addition, I believe I can safely say that I will never allow my daughter to play with an aggressive ferret again without first putting her shoes back on.  I also believe that from now on I will ensure ‘Blind Tag’ is played with some sort of head gear being used first.”

The man stared at me for a moment before standing up and without saying a word walked out of the room.

“Did I get it?” I wondered to myself as I sat there waiting for him to come back.


When Push Comes to Shove

Posted by Doug White under Personal

My whole life I have always been tall for my age. To many this gives them the impression that I’m a tough guy.  That has never been very true.  I can be intimidated by a more forceful personality and as such over the years I have been the subject of periodic bullying.  Occasionally, I find within myself a way to fight back.

My Grandpa loved to tell a story of an incident involving me as a young boy.  My own memory on this is vague but it had to do with a cousin of mine who liked to pick on me.

We were all at my grandparent’s house visiting one day.   My grandparents lived in a simple house in Rapid City that my Grandpa had built from a basement house back in the 1950’s.  It stood out because it had pink siding.  I believe the reason for the pink siding had to do with the fact that it was all my Grandpa could afford at the time.

The backyard was flush with many things for kids to play with.  There was an area filled with sand so that we could run our cars or trucks, or other such toys through it.  There was a see-saw that my Grandpa had made out of two pieces of wood, one circular and one flat.  There was a basketball hoop on the garage that I spent many hours practicing my free throws.  There were balls and bats and various other toys all around the yard to entertain us.  In today’s world, it may not have seemed like much, but to us, it was wonderful.

At the time this all happened, I had my heart set on playing with a tricycle.  Apparently so did my cousin.  All these toys around us to choose from and the two of us focused in on that tricycle with laser-like intensity.

I arrived at the tricycle first and climbed on it.  My cousin came over and pushed me off of it and leaped on it himself, riding it around.  I stood up, dusted myself off and with tears in my eyes watched as my cousin played on the one thing I wanted to play on.  Sadly I went over and began playing with something else.

After a bit, my cousin was bored and abandoned the tricycle.  I was ecstatic!  “Now I can play on it!” I thought.  I went running over to the tricycle and hopped on it again and took off.

My cousin saw me on it and suddenly it became important that he get back on.  Knowing I wouldn’t fight back, he ran over and pushed me off the tricycle again.

I stood up again but this time I was mad!  “I’ll show him!” I knew just what to do.  I was going to go tell Grandpa!

My Grandpa was and always has been my hero.  He always seemed to know the right thing to say or do in any situation.  Plus, no one ever took him on, in my young mind, he seemed absolutely fearless.  I was sure he’d make my cousin stop picking on me.

I went to my Grandpa and with tears flowing down my face freely, I told him what happened.  “Grandpa, can you help fix it?” I pleaded with him.

Grandpa did not come from the days of negotiating between kids for disputes. He came from a whole different era.  He looked down at me, wiped the tears off my little face and said, “Doug, I’m not going to help you.  You have to learn to stand up for yourself.” Then he turned around and walked away.

I stood there in shock.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  After a moment and with a resolute look on my face, I walked back over to the tricycle again – which my cousin had stopped playing with once more.  Slowly I sat back on.

My cousin saw this and ran back over.  Once more he pushed me off the tricycle. This time, however, I didn’t brush myself off and walk away.  I pushed myself up off the ground and stood directly between him and the bike.

My cousin had a grin on his face as he anticipated the fight that was going to happen.  He raised his fist at me.  I raised my right fist back at him in return.

We stood this way for a minute or two, sizing each other up.  Two young warriors, ready to battle over a prized possession.  My cousin continued to watch my right fist intently.

What he did not know however, or had forgotten, was that I am left-handed.  As he continued to watch my right fist, I hit him with my left one.  I then climbed on the tricycle and rode it away.

Was this right?  Who knows?  But my cousin stopped bullying me from that day forward.

My grandfather was a wise man.  But I learned three things that day.  I’m stronger than I think I am and bullies often are not as strong as they pretend to be.  Finally, I learned that when push comes to shove – and in this case it quite literally did, I can be quite the sneaky person.

I Get It

Posted by Doug White under Personal

I have always been fascinated by the bond that a mother has with her child. It seemed to me that there’s something there men aren’t going to understand or ever experience.  As a man with two children I have thought about this and wondered if that difference makes me less of a parent than my wife.

My wife definitely has this bond.  I have been amazed for years at her ability and her willingness to sacrifice anything for our children.  I remember a time when my oldest daughter was just a few years old and the two of them were off at a park enjoying the day.  While the two of them were playing and having fun, my wife heard something in the distance.  She turned to look in that direction and saw a dog coming her way.  It was not coming to play; it was running at a breakneck pace with a growl in its throat ready to charge the two of them.

My wife stood up and placed herself directly between our daughter and the dog.  As the dog came closer my wife – in the most menacing voice she could – screamed at it to “Get!”  The dog, either intimidated by the sound of her voice or maybe just sensing the determination in my wife to protect her cub, decided it wasn’t worth the battle and took off.

That night when my wife was telling me this story, I asked her what she would have done if the dog had continued on.  Without hesitation she replied, “I’d have drop kicked that dog as hard as I could”.  I was in awe of her with this answer.  Why? Not because I was really that sure she could have kept that dog from doing any harm, but because in my wife’s mind, it didn’t matter.  She was going to do it anyways and whatever else she could to protect her little one.

A few years after this we were at my parents’ house in Lincoln, Nebraska.  We go there regularly throughout the year to visit them and my sisters’ families.  The morning we were planning to come back home, I had just gotten out of the shower when my mom called me over to the TV.  There had been some sort of attack in New York but no one was clear what was going on.

I sat down in my mom’s kitchen and we continued to watch the news.  At this point, we knew that a plane had been flown into the World Trade Center but not a lot else.

With most tragedies like this that happen in our nation, the typical response is to have a short period of shock, watch the news for a while to see what’s going on but since it was usually not in your neighborhood, you quickly went about your day as planned.  That’s what we began to do on that day too as we needed to pack up and head on back to Marshall, MN where we lived at the time.

However, that plan quickly changed because as we were watching the news another plane flew into the buildings.  That second act seemed to personalize this whole event for everyone in the room.  Suddenly it wasn’t just an obscure attack in a city I’ve never been to.  Now it was an attack on the country.

We still had to leave, there was still a need to continue on with the normal routines in life, but they took on a more somber and serious note than before.  The goodbyes with my parents were a little more emotional.  The trip home – roughly five hours in length – seemed to take on a very surreal aspect.

During the years when our kids were really young, my wife would drive and I would sit in the back to keep our kids occupied.  We had the radio on though that day and every station was playing the news from the attacks. The van seemed to have more people in it than just the four of us.

One national newscaster after another entered our world to inform us with agonizing detail what was going on.  We learned about the plane that hit the Pentagon.  We also heard about the one that was intended for the White House but was overtaken by a group of American heroes and forced to crash before it made it to its target.  We learned that President Bush was being flown to various locations to keep him safe and at one point I believe he had been taken to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, which was very close to where we were traveling on the way home.

Finally we made it home.  We unpacked and had some supper and it was then time for me to head off to my TaeKwonDo class.  Before that moment, it wasn’t clear who was responsible for the attacks.  When I got to the gym though, our Master instructor called us into his office so we could hear George Bush address the nation.  At that moment was the first time I heard the name Osama Bin Laden.

I didn’t know who he was or why he had apparently orchestrated the attacks.  But from that moment on his name was on everyone’s lips.  The news was talking about him and we learned about him in great detail.

I came home after TaeKwonDo and my girls were asleep.  My wife followed shortly thereafter.  I tend to stay up later than anyone else and that night was no different.  I was inundated with what had happened and the face of Bin Laden.  As sad as I was about all of this, the depth of my sadness really seemed to focus on the kids who died that day.  I kept thinking about little children, maybe 4 or 5, whose biggest thing in life would probably be what cartoon they watched and suddenly they were being flown with destructive force into a building because a man in another country didn’t like our country and its ideals.

Finally, I headed off to bed, exhausted.  My nightly bedtime ritual is to go into each of my girls’ rooms and check on them and kiss them on the forehead which I did that night as well.  I then stood outside their bedrooms for a moment and stopped, just thinking about the day.  It was at this time that I swear I saw an image of Bin Laden between my two kids’ doorways.

I know that this was not a vision, nor was it in any way real and more than likely tied to how emotionally exhausted I was at the moment.  But it was at that moment that I “got it”.  At that moment, I realized with shocking simplicity that there are people in this world that will harm anyone, at anytime, including children, with no remorse whatsoever.  And that if my daughters were in their path, there would be no second thought with these people before they would destroy the innocence that is my two girls.

At that point, I understood my wife’s convictions and her passion in coming to the defense of our little girl when that dog was going to attack them.  I loved my girls wholeheartedly since the moment they were placed in my hands for the first time, but it wasn’t until that moment where I really, truly understood how far I would be willing to go to place myself in harm’s way for them.  I may not be successful but I realized at that moment I would never hesitate to do what I could to keep my girls safe from people who have no compunction in harming anyone who stands in their way.

It took a few years, but I finally understood.