Saturday 29 October 2011

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I'm a Different Dad When Traveling

Being a traveling Dad is strange. At home, my role is pretty much defined. Dad's the guy you go to when your computer isn't working, or if you need help with math. Other than that, you're going to have better luck asking Mom. I used to take offense to this, especially when my kids would ask if I knew where Mom was because they needed something heavy moving (Hello! Alpha male here! Do I have to....Oh never mind. Mom's in the living room.) but eventually I just accepted it. I've noticed though, that what my family expects from me at home, and what they expect from me on the road, are very different. I don't know if it's because of the "unknown" factor of traveling, but when we're away my family expects me to be strong, to be a leader, and to be brave.

That, of course, takes on a different form with each member of the family. The toughest person to be strong with is Lori (probably because my children seem to think she can bench press elephants). Most of the time Lori is fairly self sufficient, but at least once during each trip, I'm going to have to take her aside and explain to her, that she has to stop shopping. Normally it's because the mall has closed, which you'd think would make it easier, but if I don't hold firm and explain to her that the stores need time to restock, she'd probably just wait outside the door until somebody got nervous and called security. I'm pretty sure my strength in this area has kept my wife from having a criminal record (Can you be arrested for stalking a Ross store?).

Ice cream never makes the Daddy line
The easiest one to help out is my youngest daughter. The biggest problem for her when traveling is finding something she likes to eat. Her palate runs strictly along the hamburger/hot dog/peanut butter sandwich line, and while those things certainly aren't hard to find, sometimes it's just not what everybody else wants. When we would visit the monster buffets in Las Vegas, I would encourage my daughter to go and try some new stuff by assuring her that "If you don't like it, I'll eat it for you". Never say that. This led to the formation of "The Daddy Line" where anything she didn't like got slid over to my seat. I used to think that this policy was working great, as she would try all sorts of new things. Eventually though, I began to suspect that "Daddy will eat it for you" had changed into "What can I make Daddy eat?" I have a hard time believing that Octopus salad and braised starfish were the first things to grab her attention at the buffet.

Way, waaaay past the boundaries!
My older daughter's needs are different (although she does like to send food to the Daddy line too). I'd love to say that what she needs is a leader, but what she really needs is a leash. This girl is the first to volunteer for everything (I mentioned the Globetrotters story before - she hasn't learned her lesson) and what my job here really should be is to set some boundaries. The problem is, I'm not really good at boundaries. Everything that she wants to do sounds like a pretty good idea to me. "You want chocolate for breakfast? Pass me a handful too please." "You want to learn how to twirl fire for a hula dance? Let me grab my camera." She knows that I'm a terrible judge of limits too. If she's looking to get away with something, she comes to me. Unless she's looking to go over budget shopping, then she goes to Mom.

Then there's the boy. The boy has kind of moved past the whole needing Dad for reassurance thing, and now we travel as buddies. Sure he still needs me to drive and pay, but other than that I'm there to talk about whatever's going on in his life that day. I thought that I'd miss having a little boy to take care of, but it turns out that it's a lot of fun just having another guy to hang out and do crazy stuff with. Whether he needs it or not though, I still try to seem strong when we're together. I mean after all, I'm still his Dad, and whether or not I'm seeing it, he might still be taking his cues from how I lead the family. Fortunately, I'm one of those guys whose face always shows a look of quiet confidence, so I'm kind of the poster boy for bravery. I hope he's paying attention.