Diary of a Wimpy Dad

Ever since I can remember I’ve always been deadly scared. The first time I remember being truly frightened was after watching the Talking Tina episode of the Twilight Zone. It was 1975 and I was five years old. Afterwards I walked out into the bright California sun but still shivered. I’ve no idea if I was brave before then but it was all downhill from there.  Even though I’m nearly 42, I still can’t watch horror movies or anything even close. Last week I tried to take in an episode of the Walking Dead but after a few minutes was too scared to go out on the back deck and feed my cats, so I turned off the show. I’ll never watch another second.

In this, I am a lot like my son B. At four years old, he is easily scared by his entertainment. So far, he has had to leave any movie we’ve taken him to and he usually screams and runs from the room when an evil character wanders into one of his shows, even when recently watching an episode of My Little Pony.

In most other regards, though, B is not like me. For instance, I am seriously scared of snakes and always have been, but when we ran into a small garter snake on a hike this summer I grabbed a stick and pointed it out to him. Once he saw the tiny black serpent he grabbed the stick from me and began to poke it. “Be careful,” I told him while the snake reared its head, then I started asking him to stop until the snake flipped in the air and fled into the tall grass. My heart was racing.

Then two weeks ago, we went on our customary morning wagon ride with baby G when we came across a little orange newt slowly crawling across the black top. Once again I pointed it out to him–they’re neat looking with an orange base and spotted with bright orange–when he bent over and picked it up. The newt just grew rigid but I freaked, especially when B put it on G’s shoulder. The former just laughed as I quickly brushed it off his brother’s shoulder and pulled him out of the wagon.

Then we continued on our walk until we came across another. We have a lot of these newts in our development for some reason and I’ve seen a lot of them flattened on the roadside by cars so I suggested that he pick up this one and put it in the grass.

Since then, the saving of newts has become our morning mission. We walk the road with baby G in tow. Since I am reluctant to touch them–“They feel dry,” B says, but I don’t really want firsthand experience–I scan the road like a scout and point them out, then he scurries over, lifts them off the asphalt and places them in the grass before the school bus comes barreling down the road. We both get excited and it’s a great compromise activity for a wimpy dad and the son who’s already braver than his old man.

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How Do I Sleep?

I can’t sleep when my kids are gone. I’m on day two or three of a mini-break from the children–they are with Mama visiting their Nana and Papa–and I need them to return so I can get a proper night’s rest. It might seem odd considering that B and G both produce a lot of noise during the wee wee hours–it’s not unusual for one or both to wake up crying at some point–but I can’t doze without the sounds they make.

Part of it is living in an overly quiet suburb. I like being in the city where you can hear car doors slamming or a late night driver whiz by, not the still of the night where the creaks of the house mingle with your own breathing. Part of it is that I’m an extreme chicken and have been ever since my father subjected me to episodes of The Twilight Zone with Talky Tina when I was only four.

I think most of the problem, though, is that I am an incomplete organism without my two little boys. They are like my appendages at this point, I really don’t know what to do without them, and I feel this most acutely in the dead of night, when there are no diversions available. B and G, I need you to come back home.