I’m not back. Well, I’m back. Because I’m writing this. But I’m not really back. I’m just here to wrap up some business.
In a couple of days, the only address for this website will return to www.claresdad.wordpress.com. Some of you probably never even changed your link if you had one (that address had brought you here too). Some of you probably never even updated from my old Blogger address; I lost quite a few readers when I changed to WordPress. (Although, if you never updated from that, you’re probably not reading this here.)
As I logged in to write this post, I noticed that I had written exactly one hundred posts on WordPress for this blog. (This post is one hundred one.) Nobody but me may be interested, but I thought I’d share some statistics from the past five years.
Since August 22, 2005, I wrote 509 posts for Clare’s Dad. In that time, I had 2,849 comments (not counting spam). Not bad considering that I went through long periods of inactivity and a change in the web address. I didn’t check the visitor statistics on Blogger (it’s been so long that I don’t even remember where to find those), but I know that at the height of this blog, there were hundreds of daily readers. That’s nothing for larger blogs, I know, but for me it was pretty special.
Thanks again for joining us along the way—especially to those of you who have commented and become friends. Stay in touch. If you don’t know where to find me, just ask. We may not be blogging our life stories anymore, but Clare, Clare’s Mom and I will still be here—growing up one day at a time.
P.S. Anyone looking for more about me might also check out my (semi) professional website here.
This is my last post at Clare’s Dad. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a sad and difficult choice. Part of me wants to say that I may be back. But I’ve sung that song before and we know where it goes. If I were to start blogging here again, I’d most likely neglect the blog after a few days or weeks. Instead, this blog deserves an ending.
My life has changed in the past five years. In most ways, for the better. Five years from now, it may be quite different again. I do hope though that I’ll still be connected to the friends I’ve made here.
As I’ve told a few of you, I’m not retiring from the Internet. You can find me on Facebook—if you can’t find me, send an email or leave a comment and I’ll find you. I’m also on Twitter—but I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of Twitter and don’t update there regularly either. You can also follow the work of my (recently) new kids’ theater company at New Britain Youth Theater. A website and blog for consulting work I’ve done is at www.darrenfarrington.com; I may morph that site into something more personal that I’ll update more often, but I’m not making any promises, yet.
This being my last post here, I have to write something to a very special someone. Clare, it’s been a privilege for me to keep this journal for you for the past five years. I’m hoping to enjoy many, many, many more years with you, and to help you to keep your own memories too. I had a video of photos from the past five years, but being technologically challenged I can’t get it to upload to WordPress. (Update: I’ve upload it through YouTube, but can’t get the audio that I wanted. If it had worked, you’d be hearing She covered by Elvis Costello. How does everyone else get around the copyright issue? Asks the lawyer.)
Thank you, everyone. Thank you, Clare’s Mom. And thank you, Clare.
One of the hardest parts of watching a child grow up may be their loss of belief in all things magical. With Clare, although she’s almost nine years old, we’ve adopted a sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. She doesn’t ask about Santa, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny, and Clare’s Mom and I go on as if Clare were still three or four years old. One day—when she’s as old as we are—Clare won’t have to ask; she’ll know for a fact that there is a Santa Claus. This post was written on January 31, 2008. It was the week that Clare lost her first tooth—right down the bathroom drain.
The Tooth Fairy did visit earlier this week in spite of the missing tooth. Clare wasn’t all that bothered that the tooth fell down the drain. I guess if you can believe that a little magical being comes into your bedroom during the night and switches your tooth for a buck or two, you can believe that she’ll accept a note. To be safe, Clare’s Mom did write a note too—that was actually Clare’s idea.
For a first tooth, it cost us five bucks. (I think we’ll go down to one for the rest.) It’s also costing me a bit of my sanity as I try to keep up with Clare’s questions.
“What does the Tooth Fairy look like?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I told her. I really couldn’t think of any Tooth Fairy standard. In The Santa Clause 3, the Tooth Fairy was even a guy—I was pretty glad Clare didn’t remember that one. “I don’t think anybody has ever seen her.”
“How does she get in?”
I didn’t want to back myself into the whole chimney discussion, so I told Clare that since the Tooth Fairy is so tiny she must just fly in somehow.
“How do you know she’s tiny if you’ve never seen her?” This kid is a better lawyer than I was.
“Aren’t all fairies small?” I asked in return. I was pretty proud of turning that one around.
“Cinderella’s fairy godmother isn’t small.” I’ll be making her pay for her own law school tuition.
“Maybe,” I answered, “fairies can make themselves small or big.”
I got out of that one by the skin of my teeth—pun intended.
This kind of discussion is happening too often. I can almost see the wheels turning in Clare’s head as she asks questions. She’s on the edge of reason—when curiosity, intelligence, reading, and older kids on the school bus all converge to threaten her belief in magic and put an end to her innocence.
“Why doesn’t Santa bring as many toys to poor kids?”
The wheels are turning.
“Does the Easter Bunny make the candy or buy it?”
The wheels are turning.
“How is Mickey Mouse at Disney World, Disneyland and on the Disney ship all at the same time?”
The wheels are turning.
I wish I could make those wheels turn back in the other direction, but that would be about as easy as making a lost tooth stay in Clare’s mouth. As long as she believes, I’ll keep my wheels turning too to answer every question she throws at me. Reason can wait. And sanity be damned.
This post was written on November 9, 2007, the day after Clare’s sixth birthday. It was a favorite of my blog readers. It’s one I still think of whenever someone says, “Where did the time go?” This week, when Clare decided not to take beach toys on vacation, we passed another of those mundane moments that actually has so much meaning.
I don’t have the usual Friday Talent Round-Up post today. There wasn’t much that I could think of to post. There was Clare’s birthday yesterday—a school day, a new dishwasher (we had to wash by hand for a couple of weeks), getting ready for a family birthday party tomorrow, a couple presents, and dinner out at Clare’s choice of restaurants (at least she didn’t pick McDonald’s). But, despite a fun birthday, it all seems a bit mundane. (Does anyone else always think of Funt and Mundane when they hear that word?)
Honestly, none of my posts from the past few weeks seem that interesting to me. Nothing particularly funny, nothing particularly moving. I blame it on the fact that I’m busy with other things, but really I feel like nothing much important or blogworthy has happened.
Clare’s sixth birthday yesterday made me think differently. Six seems so old. Clare certainly isn’t an infant or toddler anymore, but at five she was still our baby—sometimes still needing us to pick out clothes, button buttons, zip zippers, open boxes, dress Barbies, read, cuddle, and just be hugged. None of that has changed overnight of course, but over a year’s time, our baby has become a kid.
Five was a great age. Clare learned to read, completely dressed herself more often, and carried on real conversations that were funny, intelligent and meaningful—sometimes all at the same time. The breakdowns and temper tantrums happened less often too. Six will be great too I’m sure. But before we know it, she’ll be a girl of ten, twelve or fifteen.
That happens so often, doesn’t it? That a parent looks back and wonders how their baby became a young woman or man? Where did the time go? But we all know the answer. Time happens every day…at about the rate (Einstein be damned) of one minute per minute.
It’s the ordinary, mundane hours of every day when our kids are growing. It’s happening when they no longer ask us to button buttons, zip zippers or tie shoes. It’s when they stop coloring scribbles and start coloring in the lines. It’s when they decide that they won’t be a princess or pirate for Halloween again this year or pick cheerleader or ghost instead of the cute pumpkin or bear costume that Mom thinks would be so cute. It’s when they stop wanting to wear a costume to the supermarket in November and care about how they look. It’s when they remember to say please and thank you without being reminded. It’s when they remember to stop and look both ways before trying to pull us out into the street. It’s when they learn how to count money, tell time, and know when their favorite show is on TV. It’s when they’d rather watch Hannah Montana than the Wiggles. It’s when they sit still for chapter books. It’s when they can spell, tell stories with a beginning and an end, and use four or five syllable words. It’s when they don’t want a kiss or hug before school in front of their friends. It’s when they stop needing us—and wanting us—all of the time.
When we ask five or ten years from now where the time went, the answer will be that it happened every day in these little changes. Little changes that we sometimes didn’t even notice or acknowledge. I’ve missed some myself, but the next time that I see a change or that Clare does something for the first time without my help—like buttoning the cuffs on her school shirt—I’ll know that she’s that much closer to growing up. Yes, it’s mundane and probably not blogworthy, but it’s important. It’s important and so, wonderfully, mundane.
There will always be a generational gap between parents and children. That’s by definition, isn’t it? Here are my concerns about that gap. This post was written on September 17, 2007.
Now that Clare is almost six, I’m beginning to be concerned about her TV watching habits. It’s not that she’s watching too much TV—okay, maybe sometimes she is—it’s that she may not be watching the right things. I’m not talking about her watching Jerry Springer or Showtime—which she isn’t—I’m talking about her missing some of the classics.
When I was kid in the 70s, there were about seven stations to watch, maybe twenty once we got cable. If I turned on the TV after school or on the weekends, at least one of my choices was sure to be an old episode of I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, or The Brady Bunch—and I’d watch it. Today, with so much great kids’ TV, Clare sticks to Disney, Nickelodeon or PBS Kids. Not a bad thing, but…
Because Clare and I are both fans of Kim Possible, Clare gets the joke if I say “Booya!” If I say, “Hicka bicka boo,” she answers, “Hoo-sha!” But will Clare, or anyone in her generation, know many of the classic characters, scenes and catch phrases of TV? I only had about twenty years of classics to catch up on—which repeats generously provided to me. But Clare, she’s missed half a century of cultural references already.
If Clare breaks a vase and I say, “Mom always said, ‘Don’t play ball in the house,’” will she get the joke? Or will she wonder when Mom said that?
Will Clare ever understand the significance of Mayberry, 1313 Mockingbird Lane, or a three hour tour? Will she ever look for Gopher on a cruise to Puerto Vallarta? If I point to the sky and shout, “De plane! De plane!” will she look at me like I’ve lost it?
If I call someone a meathead, say “Stifle it, Edith” or “Sit on it, Potsie,” will Clare wonder who the heck these people are? “Up your nose with a rubber hose” would probably put the same confused look on her face.
If I jump through the car window will Clare think “General Lee?” Or will she wonder when it was exactly that I lost my mind?
And, even though the reference is now only a little over a decade old, I should probably cancel my plans to go to her high school in twelve years, raise my fist, and shout, “Donna Martin graduates!”
Even “M-I-C (See you real soon.) K-E-Y (Why? Because we like you.)” isn’t used on Disney anymore.
What do you think? Will some of these characters and catch phrases one day be long forgotten? Or will our kids eventually understand the references? Do you remember any other great ones and still use them? Do your kids know other ones?
With a generation between us, they’ll probably always be “off by that much.”
Just when you think that nothing you say or do gets through your kids’ heads, they do something to show that they get it. This post was written on March 22, 2007 when Clare was only five years old. She’s no longer as afraid of the dark, but I am beginning to suspect that she’ll spend a few teenage years as a follower. Didn’t we all?
After all the buzz in the past month or so about hipster parents, I’ve realized that Clare is hipper than I am. I may be a grup who wears jeans, sneakers and t-shirts more often than a suit; I may buy new music online and fix my hair every morning with fiber paste and my fingers; I may be a newly cool stay-at-home Dad who blogs and chats online (I draw the line at a MySpace account). But in doing my own thing, I’m just following the crowd.
I’m not saying that I’m a follower. I’ve pretty much always done what I want and set my own trends, like staying preppy when grunge was in. Or going grungy for my one or two visits to Manhattan dance clubs. Or wearing green J. Crew pants to an opening night theater performance. Style has slapped me in the face sometimes too. Like when I didn’t wear a navy blue suit and the proper shirt collar and didn’t give the suitable stock answers at interviews with law firms. But in doing my own thing, I’ve pretty much been right along side a lot of my fellow Gen-X’ers who are also still doing their own thing. As original as I may think I am or want to be, there are millions of us out there doing the same thing.
Clare, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten her style from anyone else. She wears a uniform to Kindergarten everyday, but when I send her to her room after school to put on some play clothes, she comes back in a brown embroidered skirt, teal green shirt with the word DREAM bedazzled across it, a pink hoodie, pink and purple boots, and a pink flowered hat pulled over her head. And I’m pretty sure she’s never watched Blossom. These are all clothes that Clare has helped to pick out or that she’s wearing in combinations that her Mom never imagined.
Clare also has a hip hairstyle that she asked for without seeing any pictures. We’ve even heard from a few other girls’ mothers that the girls want their hair cut like Clare’s. I guess that makes Clare the Kindergarten Rachel.
But I knew for sure that Clare was hip when we were talking after dinner last night. I asked Clare to go upstairs and pull her clothes off for her bath. She told me that she couldn’t go alone because she’s afraid of the dark—she has a new fear of going into a room that doesn’t have a light on in it already. I told her that there’s nothing to be afraid of and reminded her that she used to like dimly lit rooms like I do.
In answer to this she said, “I changed my mind. And it’s okay if I don’t like everything that you do. People can like different things. And that’s okay.”
I guess she put me in my place. Her fear of the dark should go away eventually, but I hope her attitude never changes. Especially when she’s a teenager.
“People can like different things. And that’s okay.” Knowing that already is what really makes her hip.
Most parents, whether bloggers or not, brag about their children’s achievements. I’m not above that. But unlike some parents, I’ve also pointed out some absolutely stupid things Clare has said and done. This post was written on March 2, 2007, when Clare was a five-year-old Kindergartener. Three years later, the family still reads together. We’re on chapter books now. Some don’t even have pictures!
I know that every parent thinks their kid is exceptional, but Clare has done a few things this week to show us exactly what kind of intelligence to expect from her. It looks like she’s going to be just like her old man.
Clare started reading to us this week. She brought home a simple phonetics book with short rhyming sentences (like “The cat sat.”) and read it to Clare’s Mom and me. Being a skeptic, I figured that she had read the book with her teacher and just memorized the sentences. But, she also read Go, Dog, Go! which is a longer book that we have at home. And now she’s working on The ABC Bunny which she got from the school library. (The first due date stamped in the back of this book, by the way, is January 7, 1964—further proof that this school needs to update its library.) Except for some tricky words like right and enough (I don’t know how anyone ever learns English), she’s doing a great job sounding out words. It’s sad that she won’t need Clare’s Mom or me to read to her soon, but Clare assures us that she’ll still let us.
Clare’s also been developing her vocabulary. She brought me this broken light up wand this week and said, “Daddy, can you repair this?” I made kind of a face because I wasn’t sure if its battery is replaceable. Clare saw me thinking hard (I must have a thinking hard face), and added, “Repair means fix, Daddy.” Thanks, Pumpkin.
Now that I’ve told these stories about how smart Clare is getting, I can safely tell another. Clare brought a sandwich for lunch one day this week when she didn’t like the school cafeteria’s offering. When Clare’s Mom asked her if she ate it, she said no. Upon further questioning she told us that the sandwich was made upside down…she likes bread on the bottom, then ham, then cheese, then bread. And her sandwich was made with the ham on top of the cheese. Turn the sandwich over, dimwit.
Yup, Clare’s going to be just like me. Book smart but a little lacking in common sense sometimes. Clare’s Mom is going to blame me for this for sure.
In November 2006, I participated in NaBloPoMo—National Blog Posting Month. I posted every day of the month, picked up a few new readers, and found a few new blogs to read too. This post was written on November 16, 2006. It’s not only about my first parent-teacher conference at Clare’s school, it’s about how so many of us share the same concerns as parents—whether today, four years ago, or thirty years ago. Four years after this post, I can say that Clare certainly is turning out alright.
I had a parent-teacher conference with Clare’s kindergarten teacher this week. I was happy to learn that Clare is smart and creative and polite in school. The tough news, however, was that Clare doesn’t always pay attention in class. And it’s not just that she doesn’t pay attention…she gets up and walks around the classroom whenever she pleases.
Clare’s teacher told me that we should discuss the importance of paying attention with Clare, but we shouldn’t be overly worried about this right now…that even first graders act this way sometimes.
Kids not focusing or not behaving according to the standard rules seems to be at the top of the blog news this week. Over at Life’s Little Adventures, Alissa found out that in one day her own five-year old son’s teacher had to “redirect him to task” 42 times in a 3 hour span to “call him back from dreamland, or tell him to sit back down, or ask him to please be quiet.” She was sad, embarrassed and frustrated that her son couldn’t behave himself in school.
And at A Family Runs Through It, Phil asked himself this week, “Why can’t my son be like all the other boys?!” But he quickly realized how wrong it is to compare one child to another. “That doesn’t mean they can break the rules and be impolite,” he wrote, “but I’m talking about the way they play and create and learn and grow. Every kid has their own special way. Sometimes it’s up to the parents to open their eyes and see it.”
It’s funny that all of us should write about similar things in the same week. But, if it weren’t for putting Allisa’s and Phil’s stories together with my own, I might not have taken the effort to go digging for a thirty year old report card in my basement. I found it in a box under bags of wrapping paper and other boxes of old tax returns, clothes and Christmas decorations. It was my first kindergarten report card. And in the comments section my teacher wrote, “Darren has been a bit disruptive at times.”
I like to think that I turned out okay. I’m sure that our kids will too.
Today Clare’s Mom and I celebrate our twelfth anniversary. I wrote the following post for our tenth anniversary on August 15, 2008. Happy anniversary, Sue. I love you.
I once read a quote that goes something like this: Women get married hoping that their husbands will change, but they don’t. Men get married hoping that their wives won’t change, but they do.
Whoever said or wrote that must have known about Clare’s Mom and me.
Years ago, when I lived in Manhattan and Clare’s Mom still lived in Connecticut, she’d visit on weekends with a suitcase full of alcohol and mixers. We’d start the night at my apartment and watch a video she’d made of episodes of Friends, ER and other shows that either I didn’t have the time to watch or didn’t come in on my thirteen inch television with no cable. Later, at about eleven at night, we’d go out and stay out until about four in the morning. We’d wake up around noon the next day and, in the summer, might head up to Yankee Stadium where we’d get popcorn and beer until they stopped selling in the seventh inning. Later, when Clare’s Mom moved to New York, she got a job in the Financial District and wore hip downtown clothes. On weekends, she’d indulge my habit of exploring every neighborhood in New York, and—although we were getting older—still occasionally staying out until four in the morning.
Today, Clare’s Mom is a suburban mother with a kid, a car and an SUV, a house in Connecticut, and clothes that fit the part. She often falls asleep by ten at night after a glass or two of wine in the middle of a movie that I’ve rented. Years in the insurance industry mean that she looks at any situation and sees the risks and liabilities before anything else.
As for myself, years ago I was a poor overeducated daydreamer working toward better jobs in the theater industry. Given my choice, I’d stay up late, sleep late, and spend nearly every waking moment on the move but not always with a plan. Sometimes, I was too optimistic and easygoing for my own good. Eventually, I decided to go to law school and worked for a few years as an attorney—in large and small firms, in entertainment and commercial law, in New York and Connecticut. That didn’t work. Being a lawyer wasn’t me.
Today, I’m a poor overeducated daydreamer working toward better jobs in the theater industry. Given my choice, I’d stay up late, sleep late, and spend nearly every waking moment on the move but not always with a plan. Sometimes, I’m too optimistic and easygoing for my own good. Years in the theater industry mean that I look at any situation and see the entertainment in it or how it can look better for an audience.
Ten years ago, Clare’s Mom and I got married. I remember shortly before our wedding an uncle of mine asked Clare’s Mom and me if we fought a lot. We answered that we didn’t really fight at all. I think if ourselves of ten years ago could see ourselves now we might be horrified at the changes—or lack of changes—maybe even scared enough not to go through with the wedding.
Today, Clare’s Mom and I celebrate our tenth anniversary. We’ve had ups, downs, and every other direction you can think of. We’ve had lowpoints that we’ve gotten through together and others that could have nearly meant the worst. We’ve had highpoints that haven’t come often enough and, in the past seven years, have usually involved Clare.
So, if ten years ago I knew that I was marrying an early-to-bed suburban mom who always saw the risks and liabilities in everything, would I do it? If Clare’s Mom knew that she was marrying a guy who ten years later would still be always on the lookout for new theater work and who was still a little too easygoing, would she?
I can’t answer for Clare’s Mom, but I can for me. With the suburban life and the constant lookout for risks and liabilities comes a fantastic wife and mother who’s always looking out for us. She may have changed, but she’s changed for the better. We might not be staying out until four in the morning or buying as many beers as possible at Yankee Stadium before the end of the seventh inning, but instead I think we’re pretty good parents. In fact, I think that because of our differences we even complement and help each other to be better. There aren’t many people you can truly say that about—definitely not many people who are also smart, beautiful, fun, and who put up with the craziness that comes with being me.
Have the ten years been perfect? Not by a longshot. Am I perfectly happy nonetheless? With Clare’s Mom and Clare, you bet I am.
Happy anniversary, Sue. I love you more than ever.
In just over one week—on August 22, 2010—this blog will turn five years old. For many of you dad and mom bloggers who had newborns when this blog started, five years means that you’re sending the young ones off to Kindergarten this year. For this blog, five years means that the time has come to finally put it to rest.
For over a year, I’ve been making excuses about not posting—Clare’s privacy as she gets older, less time for me to write and more at work, the over-commercialization of blogging. The reason doesn’t really matter, but it’s probably a little of all of those things.
Five years ago, Clare was three years old going on four. Today, she’s eight going on nine. She’s keeping her own memories now—photos, stories, mementos. The scrapbook of her life doesn’t really rely on my making notes anymore.
What I’ll miss most about blogging is the community of dad and mom bloggers that I’ve met over the past five years. Some are no longer blogging and I’ve lost touch. Some are still going strong and getting the dozens of comments that I once got. All of you are my blogmigos and joined me in good times as well as bad—like the loss of a job or the death of my mom. Matthew and Phil commented on my very first post and are still reading. A little later, Mr. Big Dubya and I realized that we live in the same town. Mrs. Big Dubya lives here too of course. Awesome Mom has been reading for a very long time too. Alissa is a great photographer, an equally great mom, and has also been reading for a long time. Pat is another photographer who inspired me to post daily pictures for a while. Greg, like me, floundered with his blog for a while, but may have found his voice again. Ed and Jay have daughters who seem very much like Clare; I feel like I’ve watched our girls grow together. Finding me a little later were James and Creative-Type Dad—who are both kind enough to still be reading. Dad of Divas too, who has also recently promoted this blog even though there’s been nothing interesting on it for months. Dan is still blogging because he’s trying to master the English language. And then there’s Whit, who I believe should be mayor of the Internet by now. There have been so many more readers and friends too. To badly paraphrase E.B. White, it’s not often that someone comes along who is a true blogmigo and a good writer. You, my friends, are both. And you’re also great parents. Keep up the good work.
When Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa was assassinated in 1923, reports were that his last words were “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.” I’m making the same request. But just to be sure you remember that there once was some substance to this blog (back before I locked the old website), I’ll be re-publishing some old posts over the next week. I hope you’ll enjoy them and keep reading for just a few more days.