Revisiting some memories today on what would have been my mother’s 75th birthday.
From a previous blog post:
My mother and I did not share many common interests, but to her credit, she did her best most of the time to try to relate to me. As a child of the 70’s–and male–I became fascinated with the movie, Star Wars when I first saw it in the theater at the impressionable age of seven. Not a fan of science fiction–or fiction in most of its forms–my mother patiently indulged my obsession from a comfortable distance. But her lack of appreciation for the movie and its sequels did not prevent her from many a thoughtful gesture. For example, I remember coming home from school one day to find that she had bought me a Star Wars item that had somehow escaped my notice up to that point: bubble gum cards with images from the movie. The brittle pink stick that came with the cards resembled gum in only the vaguest sense, but we aspiring collectors couldn’t be less concerned with that–it was the numbered and color-coded cards we coveted. Even though I wasn’t with her in the grocery store that day when she bought them for me, I can still picture her now in my mind’s eye, a hint of a smile on her face, knowing how much I would enjoy such a simple thoughtful gesture. Little did she know that I would quickly become an avid collector, dumping a considerable amount of money into a relatively harmless hobby. But even had she known, it still wouldn’t have stopped her. I still have those cards, stored in clear plastic sleeves enclosed in a binder on my closet shelf. And I have her to thank for that memento.
Another Star Wars-related memory about my mom… When I was ten years old, I remember accompanying her on a shopping trip to the K-Mart near our house around the time The Empire Strikes Back was about to arrive in theaters. I stumbled upon an aisle in the toy section filled with action figures from the yet-to-be-seen sequel that I had been anxiously awaiting. I remember feeling overwhelmed–and, I must admit, almost intoxicated–by seeing my beloved characters in new costumes, accompanied by mysterious and intriguing new heroes and villains portrayed in plastic. And again, my mom patiently indulged my obsession by agreeing to buy me a few of these new action figures to add to my already impressive collection. And on a later trip to that same K-Mart, I can remember her relenting and buying me a new X-Wing Fighter to replace the one that had seen better days from the exhaustive regimen of daily activity it was subjected to by me. I remember noting how expensive of a purchase it was for her, but that didn’t stop her from yet another thoughtful and loving gesture on her part–knowing how happy it would make me.
Believe it or not, my mom even agreed to accompany my dad and I to the theater for one of our many subsequent viewings of Star Wars (in the days before home video)–despite the fact that she had little or no interest in seeing it. Even as a seven- or eight-year old boy, the selflessness of her gesture was not lost on me–even though I think it was several trips to the concessions counter that helped her pass the time that Saturday afternoon. Though I do remember her laughing uproariously at the cantina scene, for some reason…
(Even though she’ll only be a short distance away)
In no particular order:
- Do NOT make time to read your daughter bedtime stories every night when she is younger–even though it could instill in her a lifelong love of reading which could spark her imagination and serve her well her entire life. Books are for nerds. And definitely do not read the characters’ dialogue in silly voices. Also: don’t record yourself reading those bedtime stories on CD or cassette so she can listen to them while you’re out of town for work.
- Do NOT sit down and make homemade Pocahontas paper dolls with your daughter when she’s five years old–even though you’ve been ignoring her all evening because you’ve had to spend time getting her collicky baby brother to sleep. After all, you’re exhausted. Let her sit in front of the TV for another hour until bedtime instead. Even though she may keep those paper dolls as a memento when she’s older.
- Do NOT sit and watch your daughter’s favorite movies with her over and over again when she’s little. Such movies like The Wizard of Oz only instill the values of friendship, having faith in your dreams, and the importance of always having a home to go back to when you need it. You could be doing chores instead.
- Do NOT treat the boys your daughter dates with respect and courtesy when they come to the house. Make sure they know that YOU are the king of your castle, and they are mere peasants. Also: be sure to overuse the tired cliches of keeping a gun handy to keep the boys away. You want to make sure your daughter feels like a possession that needs to be guarded–and you certainly don’t want her developing her own self-confidence and her own sense of boundaries when it comes to navigating the complexities of dating.
- Do NOT cave and buy that $5 Barbie in the pink dress for your daughter when she’s four. Even if she looks up at you with pleading eyes and keeps telling you how pretty the Barbie is and how much she’ll love her. Stand firm–you don’t want to spoil her. She has plenty of Barbies already, and she can wait until her birthday or Christmas for presents. After all, money doesn’t grow on trees. That five bucks could get you an overpriced Starbucks coffee instead of seeing your daughter’s face light up at such a modest and unexpected present.
- Do NOT let your daughter see you in your moments of emotional weakness. Fathers are supposed to be stoic all the time.
- Do NOT let your daughter see you make mistakes. Like the time you tried to fix the kitchen faucet, but you forgot to turn off the water supply. So that when you started to disassemble the faucet, water sprayed all over the kitchen. Don’t laugh with her about such things–and don’t keep joking about it while you clean up your mess. Fathers are supposed to be perfect always.
- Do NOT bother taking your daughter to midnight book release parties where you have to stand in line for three hours to buy a book you could have ordered from Amazon and gotten the next day without ever leaving the house. Even though she’ll look adorable dressed as a seven-year old Hermione Grainger, and she may learn how books can be just as cool and exciting as movies. You could have gotten a decent night’s sleep instead.
- Do NOT let your daughter talk you into making late-night junk food runs to the grocery store. Sensible nutrition is very important!
- Do NOT attend all of your daughter’s dance recitals and holiday performances at school–since she probably won’t become a professional dancer or singer, anyway.
- Do NOT waste your time and money taking your daughter to see movies in which you have no interest, like The Lizzie McGuire Movie or The Powerpuff Girls. Even though she’ll always remember that time you spent with her, wait for those movies to come out on video instead–so you can let her watch them by herself while you do something else.
- Do NOT offer your daughter encouragement and reassurance when she’s discouraged and frustrated with herself while playing a sport like volleyball. Downplay the importance of teamwork and her being patient with herself–and the life lessons she is learning from playing a team sport. Make sure she knows that winning is everything and you won’t settle for anything less from her.
- Do NOT tease your daughter good-naturedly or let her get away with teasing you back. Children need to show their parents respect always. Showing her that you can laugh at yourself may be perceived as a sign of weakness.
- Do NOT make a point to buy your daughter a special teddy bear right after she’s born–one that she’ll keep with her until she’s eighteen and may even take with her to college. Attachment to such things is frivolous and unnecessary.
- Do NOT take your daughter to Dad-Daughter dances for as long as she wants you to. And definitely don’t make a point to make her feel like the most special girl in the room. You don’t want to look silly dancing to all that ridiculous music she likes.
- Do NOT make an effort to share in your daughter’s interests by reading some of the books she reads–like The Hunger Games or The Fault in Our Stars. Those books are for teenage girls, not adult men. Oh, and don’t bother taking her to see the movie versions, either (see #11 above)
- Do NOT offer your daughter the simple gesture of a hug to remind her of your unconditional love and support when she’s an upset and occasionally irrational adolescent. She needs to learn to deal with things on her own.
- Do NOT let your daughter get away with being snippy to you–even if it’s only once in awhile. Crack down on that immediately and let her know who’s boss. You don’t want her to learn how to come back to you later and apologize when she’s had a chance to collect herself. Also: make sure you’re there to correct her every mistake for her so she never develops the ability to learn from her inevitable missteps.
- Do NOT spend what seems like hours throwing a plush Super Grover toy across the room repeatedly while imitating Grover’s voice just because it makes your daughter giggle uncontrollably when she’s two. Repetitive humor is simplistic and childish. Also: don’t keep that plush Super Grover along with other mementos–sell it in your next garage sale along with all the other clutter.
- Do NOT waste your time devising schemes like putting colored water into a spray bottle and calling it “Monster Spray”, so you can spray it around your daughter’s bedroom at night when she’s three years old to keep her imagined monsters away. It’s never too soon for her to learn to deal with reality.
- Do NOT paint your daughter’s toenails for her when she’s four because it’s the only way she’ll let you trim them. Your house is not a nail salon. Waste your time and energy arguing and/or struggling with her instead to get the job done so you can get back to watching the football game.
- Do NOT let your daughter fall asleep on your chest when she’s only a few months old–even though doing so will give you the most content sleep of your life. Babies should always sleep in cribs.
- Do NOT respect your daughter’s privacy when she’s a teenager. Instead of encouraging open and honest discussions without judgment, snoop through her diary and grill her relentlessly about where she’s going and who she’s with. Also, be sure to jump to conclusions without sufficient evidence, and then confront her.
- Do NOT make a point to compliment your daughter on her good grades–since that’s what you expect from her. Only bring bad grades to her attention, and make sure she knows how much she’s disappointed you–even though we can sometimes learn more from our failures than from our successes.
- Do NOT let your daughter chase you through snowdrifts playing Mulan when she’s six. Movies like Mulan will only teach her that women can be just as courageous and clever as male action heroes–if not more so. Plus, you’ll look ridiculous dodging imaginary arrows. Besides: it’s cold outside!
- Do NOT talk openly and honestly with your daughter when she’s a teenager about dating, sex, drugs, alcohol, or any other topic that might make you feel uncomfortable–especially because she’s a girl. Even though it’s an opportunity for her to realize that you were once her age long before you were her father. She might even discover that you made the occasional poor choice, and she might even learn something from your past mistakes. She could also be surprised to discover that you may in fact understand her more than she realizes.
- Lastly, and most importantly: Do NOT immediately surrender your heart to your daughter the instant you lay eyes on her, knowing that your life will be forever changed irrevocably for the better. And that she will widen your perspective in ways you could have never predicted–and completely realign the center of your universe.
On second thought… Ignore all this advice. Do all these things and more for your daughter–even though you’ll miss her like hell when she goes off to college (even though she’ll only be a few minutes away). You’ll both be better for the experience.
The header image on this blog is the work of Leopoldo Méndez,a relatively obscure 20th-century Mexican artist. More information about him on wikipedia.
Since the conversion of my self-published novel website to WordPress went so well, I decided to convert my personal website, too. I kept most of the same content — short fiction, video production samples, audio production clips, and some artwork — now it all has a cleaner look and is easier to navigate, I think. Plus, this should make it easier to update.
If you haven’t used it yet, I highly recommend WordPress as a tool not just for blogs, but it’s also useful for creating other types of websites.
I created a new website for my Last Archer trilogy. While I put in a lot of effort with the previous version (including teaching myself how to create rudimentary Flash animations), and even though I was proud of how it turned out, it was starting to show its age. And because it was Flash-based, it was almost useless on iOS devices.
So, in an effort to stay at least somewhat current and relevant, I updated to a WordPress-based site. The URL is still the same: lastarcher.com but the site is cleaner looking and easier to navigate — and it is more mobile device-compatible now.
I also included some preliminary artwork that I’m considering for The Last Archer’s Return.
So, if you get a chance to take a look and let me know what you think–