A Square Peg

I know that Gavin is different. Hope knows that Gavin is different. Marley knows that Gavin is different. We’re ok with that, and in fact we promote and encourage it. Can your child name all of the different sections of the tongue that correspond to all of the different tastes, then show you, in full detail with tongue out and fingers on tongue, where the taste buds for each are located? I can’t even do that, and I’ve been eating everything in sight for over 30 years. I’ve given those little taste buds a run for it, and he still knows so much more. Sour, sweet, salty, chocolaty, absolutely amazingly. It would be so much more amazing, though,  if he wouldn’t use my fingers on his tongue to show everyone.  As if I don’t wash my hands enough at work.

What’s going to get me is when Gav figures out that he is different. That is going to break my heart, and I don’t think I will be able to handle it well. He is so carefree, so unaware of what everyone thinks about him. If he is happy, then what everyone else thinks doesn’t really matter. He’s oblivious to what Joe Public thinks about him, his actions, his outbursts, and what he wears. He makes himself happy, tries so hard to make everyone around him laugh, and doesn’t care about who doesn’t like it.

I know that day will come. I know that he will realize someday that those kids aren’t laughing with him, they are laughing at him. Hope and I talked one night about him being the punchline, and although I would have died before I let her see how that affected me, I  was raging inside at the thought of his discomfort. It’s hard enough to go through adolescence without the added weight of a developmental disorder. Kids are mean, I know that. But when you are a kid, those kids are your world. For better or for worse, they are your life. They create your Abraham’s Bosom, or your Dante’s Inferno. The one time in life that, along with sticks and stones, words can always hurt you.

So here is my plan, and if you think it’s a bad one, well, just hold your breath till I tell you to stop. I’m going to teach him that he is a square peg.  I really hope this works, and that he doesn’t try to break down the word “peg” into it’s Latin roots or try to tell me where the phrase came from. It’s not beneath him to do that. He’s way smarter than me, and he knows it. I am just an amazing bull-umm, what’s the pc word here? Pooper? Not to brag, but I can fool about any 6 year-old out there.

So the theory is that a square peg will not go into a round hole, without considerable effort. If Gav is the square peg, and social acceptance is the round hole,  and that by him being himself he just won’t fit. Something needs to give. Now, he could change himself to fit the round hole, and on the outside that would seem to work. But it wouldn’t be fair to him. He’d be changing himself to fit into what society feels he should be. My plan is to teach him that the round hole should change to fit him. He is so amazing and wonderful, straight out of the box. So let everyone else change, Gav, and you stay the way you are. I know that you can convince those people that how you see the world is actually how it is, because you’ve done that for me. My view on the world is now changed, and you are the reason for that. You have shown me that what the neighbors think doesn’t matter, because their kid will still come over to play. You’ve shown me that sometimes a social outburst, although extremely inappropriate and mildly embarrassing, is sometimes needed to move my overloaded Wal-Mart buggy up a few spaces in the check-out line (that one works for Hope more than it works for me. Everyone just shoots me dirty looks and I end up slinging my own social-class slurs at strangers. Maybe he doesn’t have Asperger’s, he’s just an observationist).

My Aspie is so many things, and one of which is not a round peg. I vow to never allow this child to feel that it his he who does not fit into what everyone thinks he should. I will strive daily to show him that he is amazing and wonderful, and that it is the world around us that must change to accept him. All the while I will be working to change the world around him. And in the meantime, we just might tackle that pesky shoe-tying thing.

What I learned in Pre-K

I am very fortunate to be able to eat lunch with Marley’s Pre-K class 3 days a week. I know that eventually she will be embarrassed by my presence and will want to crawl under the table whenever I show my face around her friends, so I embrace her invitation to join her at lunch with open arms. I look forward to my time with her and her class, as I get such a kick out of how their little minds work. I love the excitement and wonder that the world around them brings, the simplicity of their conversations and interactions with each other, and their explanations about how things work. Life is so simple, so happy, so amazing to them. Although they go to learn, they have taught me so much.

First off, did you know that eating a chicken sandwich makes you better at Paper-Rock-Scissors? Or Paper-Rock-Tornado-Froze-Flowers-Shark-Lightning-Rock-Thunder-Hammer? At first I didn’t really believe it, either, but now I will testify that it is a proven fact. After just 3 bites of his sandwich, one little boy spent the rest of lunch undefeated. Never-mind the fact that he waits until everyone else goes before he chooses his weapon of destruction, or that his little sidekick made a rule that every time she said “POW!” everyone but he lost. Nope, it’s all chicken sandwiches. I think it has something to do with the steroids and additives.

Shoelaces are the nastiest things on earth. Surprised? Think about it. Next time you find yourself at a primary school, just try to count how many tots are running around, shoes untied, strings dragging, aglets flopping to and fro. Now, think about bathroom visits. Little girls aren’t so bad, but think about the aim that little boys have. Yep, that’s right. There are probably as many yellow puddles in the restroom floors as there are kids running around with untied shoes. Now, think about the last time you saw a kid approach a puddle and back away from it, without stomping and splashing right in the middle. Wanna tie those shoes, now? Guess that’s why they stay untied.

Noses. Are. Nasty. Second only to shoelaces, in my opinion. Now, those noses are so tiny. Nostrils the size of pencil erasers. So can someone please explain to me how so much can come out of those tiny little snotter-boxes? It’s like watching one of those clowns or magicians pull a scarf, or hundreds of scarves, from their sleeve. It just keeps going and going to point where you’re not so impressed anymore, you just want it to end. I’m starting to think that some sort of Shop-Vac with a tiny little attachment may be a great idea. As long as I don’t have to empty it.

You can tell so much about a kid by how they color. Seriously, just hear me out. The more time that I spend with these kids, the more I get to know about their personality. They are all so different, so unique, and so predictable. As I look over the coloring pages hung up in the hallway, I can almost name the artist without looking at the name scribbled on it. I can see how the anxious, impatient boy has lightly ran a crayon through the middle of his picture. It looks more like he was drawing intestines rather than coloring. I can see how precise and perfect the bossy, controlling girl took extra care to make sure that her picture was the best. All of the crayon marks are going in the same direction, too. Then there’s the hyper boy that spends most of his day in “the bad room”, which I assume is either In School Suspension or the office. His picture is a little more than half done, as I’m sure he got bored, quit coloring, and did something ridiculous that landed him in trouble.

The barter system is in full effect at lunch. A Pop Tart is worth 4 cookies or 1 Reese Cup. Carrots cannot be traded, but given away freely. The same with grapes. Sandwiches stay with their owner, and no talk of trading sandwiches is allowed. Chips of different types all hold equal value, despite their size or flavor. Candy, regardless of the type, trumps all. If you have candy, you control all trade. You’re the Trade Commission, they are department stores. You make the rules.

Spitting food on someone is basically like stepping on their throat. It doesn’t matter what story you were trying to tell, or if you were choked and just performed the Heimlich on yourself. If food leaves your mouth and lands on someone else, you are completely at fault and should be banished to the bad room for all of eternity. No questions asked. I’m so very glad it’s not covered by Dram Shop Laws, although if these kids have their way it soon will be.

Love triangles start in Pre-K. At least in Marley’s mind. She is never directly involved, so I sometimes question the validity, but everyday someone else is in love with someone else, who is also in love with someone else. It’s like a tiny little soap opera, minus the evil twins and complex story lines.  I don’t really know how much I doubt her, though, since yesterday I watched a girl practice kissing her hand. Before you get all worked up, it wasn’t kissing like you would see on late-night TV, but more like a snake striking. I really think she was like a tiny kissing ninja, working on her timing and speed to better enable her to quickly plant a smooch on the cheek of some unexpected, probably napping, little boy.

Lastly, I have learned that I need that time. I look forward to it daily and I am so very sad to see it end. I enjoy hearing them say Hi and Bye to me, I cherish the fact that at this given moment, Marley is proud to have me there, and I have improved so much at Paper-Rock-Tornado-Froze-Flowers-Shark-Lightning-Rock-Thunder-Hammer. I love getting to know these kids, watching them grow and learn. I know that my lunch visits will soon end, so I am savoring every last minute. And then I’m washing my hands.

What’s been bugging me.

I don’t want to be the absentee dad who is there only in body but not in mind. I don’t want to be part-time. I want it all. I want them to look back on their younger years and see that I was right there beside of them, brushing teeth and wiping butts and playing Barbie and building Legos and dancing along with whatever version of Just Dance they put it. I want to be there. I will be there.

I’ve been so overwhelmed lately. Work has been crazy, as we’ve seen such a huge increase in traffic over the last few weeks (ask The DaddyYo Dude, he’s there for it. I saw it on his face last weekend), Hope’s spring semester of law school has started, the kids have been battling the crud (that’s what we call getting sick), and that damn dog keeps digging holes in the back yard. Ok, that last one doesn’t really bother me, but I did stand at the kitchen window and watch her dig two holes within 5 minutes yesterday morning. She’s a quick one.

There’s just so much going on, and it’s starting to drag me down. I just feel like I’m losing control, that I just can’t tighten my grip enough to make things go the way they should. To me, control is everything. I would wear the title “control freak” proudly, if it wasn’t for that “freak” part. Control Master would be more like it, or maybe Control Ninja or Control Jedi. Either one of those is fine. Anyway, when I’m not in control, or I feel like I am losing control, my brain automatically begins to analyze of all of the areas where breakdowns may occur, the areas that are slipping past me. Then I begin to troubleshoot all of the ways that I can turn it around and fix that breakdown of control. Seriously, you should see all of the schematics, notes, and thoughtmaps laying in my office.

So, when I began feeling this way a few weeks back, I started that process. I dissected everything that I didn’t have pinned down. I saw areas where I could tighten my grip, and came up with plans to wrestle control back from whoever had it other than myself. I went through with those plans and saw that things were starting to turn in my favor. It still didn’t help my feelings of being overwhelmed.

So, I dug a little deeper. There must be something there that I can change, something that will make all of this better. There had to be something that I missed. Maybe I’m just not organized enough. That’s it, I’ll work on my organization. I’m using my dayplanner to it’s full extent, using Evernote (if you haven’t yet, check out that app. It has absolutely changed my life. I spoke with an old business partner the other day that says the same thing. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I absolutely could not live without it now). I’m scheduling my tasks days in advance, and I’m spending time with my mentor every week. Still, it’s just not helping.

I shot through so many more ideas on what could be causing me so much stress, but I just couldn’t seem to find it. Then, today, I was lying on Gavin’s bed while he and Marley played on his computer. I wasn’t even paying much attention to them, as I was caught up in a conversation with one of my mangers through text. I didn’t even realize that she was asking me a question until she was right up in my face.

“Daddy, I asked you if I should put my feet up on Bubby’s desk, or if I should hang them over the side of the chair. You need to put your phone down and answer me, cause I want to know right now.” She was only inches from my face. Bright blue eyes, opened as wide as they could possibly go, just daring me to not pay attention. I’ve never seen a human’s eye out of the socket. I hear that it is gigantic, that you can only see a small part between their eyelids. I believe that, because I have never seen that much of a human’s eyeball until that moment. Blood vessels, cornea, iris, maybe even a little optical nerve. Grossed me out a little, but her eyes are just so cute that they pulled me right back in.

Let’s just think for a minute about the question that she asked me. Really, would the place where she put her feet matter in 30 minutes? No, it wouldn’t. Years from now, when she’s lying in her bed thinking about whatever social issues that are keeping her up that night, like what color headband to wear with those shoes or what she was going to do for her science experiment, would she really ever really remember sitting at her brother’s desk, fretting over where to put her feet?

No, she wouldn’t. Years or even just months from now it won’t really matter. Honestly, she has probably forgotten about it by now. That doesn’t matter in this case. What matters right now is right now. Right now she is truly confused on where to put her feet, on what the right thing to do is. Right now she is coming to me to help her solve a problem, and I can’t pull myself away from work long enough to help her out. She won’t remember what the issue was, but she will remember that I didn’t help her solve it. There it is, that’s what has been stressing me out.

I have let my work steal me away from my family. That kills me, drive me absolutely insane. I don’t want to be “that” Daddy. I don’t want to be the absentee dad who is there only in body but not in mind. I don’t want to be part-time. I want it all. I want them to look back on their younger years and see that I was right there beside of them, brushing teeth and wiping butts and playing Barbie and building Legos and dancing along with whatever version of  Just Dance they put it. I want to be there. I will be there.

So, I have made the decision to scale it back. I want to be successful, I want to grow my business, but not at the expense of my family. So, if you are getting this message after I have left work for the day, please leave a message at the beep, and I will return your call as soon as I am done playing Jedi Training Camp.

One day, there will be no surprises.

It happens almost every single day. I even ask them, just to double check and possibly prevent it from happening. The kids disappear for awhile, sometimes announcing what they are doing, sometimes secretly and privately. They are only off of the grid for a minute, before Marley asks for a book and a cover, or Gavin just yells throughout the house what his status is. That’s right, it’s potty time. Not just any potty time, but good-ol, hunkered down, gonna be here a minute potty time.

That’s not what gets me. I understand the digestive system very well. I have changed hundreds of diapers, so I have experience. I’ve also had a very active digestive system for over 30 years now, so there are no surprises. I know what goes on in there, I’ve been right there during the training, and I’ve assisted in the post-duty clean-up. I’m ok with that, as I know that’s what people do. What gets me are the little surprises when I walk into the bathroom, sometimes hours after they were in there.

For whatever reason, it infuriates me. I have even gone so far as to make “If it’s brown, flush it down” our house mantra. It doesn’t seem to help. As soon as I see either kid emerge from their private time, I ask two questions: 1. Did you wash your hands? It’s just common sense, and good personal hygiene. I happen to work in an industry where I wash my hands upwards of 30 times a day, so I expect others to do the same. I’m not a germ-a-phobe by any means, but please, for the love of all things holy, wash your mitts. And 2. Did you flush? Again, it’s just common sense, but COME ON!!!! We have long since left the years of out-houses and port-a-potties. I’m not Jed Clampett, you’re not Ellie Mae, so FLUSH! We’re not working on some underpass out on I81, so FLUSH! It’s not even that hard! You can push the lever with one finger! It’s so sensitive that sometimes it flushes just by my looking at it. Maybe it’s afraid of me, that it knows what’s coming next.

I hardly ever use that bathroom, for just that reason. When I do, however, I almost always expect a surprise. I can’t count the times that I’ve lifted the lid, ever so slowly, peering underneath in the grasp of extreme fear of what I might see. Sometimes I spy a corner of paper before the lid is very high, so I can quickly drop the guillotine and flush. Sometimes I think I’m in the clear, only to be sorry for my haste. Here lately, I think they are doing it on purpose. No matter how hard I try to convey to them that what happens in there is a very personal experience and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone else, they just don’t seem to get it. Maybe they just don’t care, or maybe they take joy in it.

So after I was surprised this last time, I started thinking about it as I would in my restaurant: there is a problem that needs to be fixed. Here is where we currently are, which is an issue. Here is where we need to be, which involves crystal clear water, no floaters, and a fresh, clean scent. Here are the people involved, and the resources at my disposal. Should be an easy fix. So I start working on an action plan. I inform everyone of the issue, where we are currently, what our end result will be, and what steps we will take to achieve said result. I’m feeling pretty good about this, feeling fairly in control and like  I’m making a difference. We start working on this. I think we are making progress. I ask qualifying questions (did you wash your hands and flush). Depending on the answer and the reaction, I ask reaffirming questions (are you sure, let me smell your hands). I then rest assured that we are moving forward.

Hours later, I walk in the hall bathroom, and guess what I find? Sigh. Now it’s just my fault. I mean, when a cook tells me that we are out of olives, guess what I do? I go check. When a bartender tells me that she blew the last keg of Bud Light, what do I do? I go check. When a prep cook tells me that they can’t finish making salad mix because we are out of romaine lettuce, what do I do? That’s right, I check. I drop whatever I’m doing at that time, no matter how important, and I walk back to where said item is held, and I inspect myself. Throughout the years I have learned that people are lazy, have glaucoma, or are just plain ridiculous. Nine times out of 10 the product is there, despite what they tell me. They know that I will do this, so they always double check before they tell me.

You would think that I would apply this to my home life. I want to, I really do, but I can’t. I’m sorry, but for whatever reason, I do not feel that inspecting the toilet for loiters is what I was put on this earth to do. I will deal with the frustration, the endless questions, and the constant fear of surprise rather than march directly into the throne room and check the drop vault for remnants, for a deposit that got hung up. I refuse. Therefore, I will live this eternal “Groundhog’s Day” of sorts, and I will bitch about it daily. Gives me something to do.

One day, though, there will be no surprises.

The difference between you and I

You’re a dad. I’m a dad. We love our kids. We shower them with affection, we roll in the floor with them, and we read them bed-time stories. We wash butts, we brush teeth, and we cook macaroni and cheese. It tends to be more Spongebob macaroni than any other, but it’s still macaroni and cheese. We wash clothes, we fold clothes, and we pick out clothes for school, for play, and for bed. We are jungle gyms, swing sets, and monkey bars. We are pogo sticks, ladders, and horsies. However, we are not the same.

There is such a small difference, but it makes me feel so far removed from you. My child has never told me that he loves me. I know that he does, and I don’t need to hear it to convince me. He tells me that I’m awesome, he compares me to Chuck Norris (hey, in this house, that’s one step below bright light), and he includes me in his play. He asks me to build legos, he asks me play chase, and he asks me to play Wii. He doesn’t hug, but he “trust bumps”. He doesn’t kiss, but he high-fives. He doesn’t make eye-contact, but he doesn’t stray far from me in public. He doesn’t tell me with his words, but he tells me with his interactions.

The difference between you and I is that I’m a special needs parent. You are who you are, what you do, and who you influence. You are the job you have, the people you know, and the Klout you have. I gave that up, although not when I first received the diagnosis. I gave it up when I decided that he was more important than I. I am a special needs father, and advocate, a rock. I am a provider, a solace, someone to be angry at when things don’t go according to plan. I am the easy out, the scapegoat, and the enemy. I am his biggest fan, his supporter, and the one that will keep him focused on what he needs.

I can learn from you, and I deeply envy you. Don’t get me wrong, I would never trade one single aspect of my life for anything out there. I love the struggles, the joys, and the laughs, but I sometimes wonder what life is like across the fence. So I look to you for advice, for normality, and for measurement. I know that we are worlds apart, but we are so close. While our children’s development may be different, the roles we play in their lives aren’t. Our outlooks, purposes, and agendas may be slightly different, but we both have the same end result in mind: raising healthy, well prepared individuals with the ability to change the world. Just so happens that mine will do it with untied shoes and mismatched jammies.

Where thumbs go

Some of you may have already come across this post. It’s one from the vault, but it happens to be one of my favorites. It’s actually one of Apsie’s favorites, too, as when we talk about the blog he always seems to mention the mixture of Fruity Pebbles and gin. I love the fact that he is so enthusiastic about it, and laughs hysterically when we talk about it. So, hopefully you will enjoy it as much as he does.

 

I. Love. Structure. So it’s very fitting that Gav thrives under it. Like most Aspies, he seems to have a much, much better day if we stick to a schedule. It helps even more if he knows the schedule well, or if he can see the schedule. Hope figured this out a while back, and made a white board with his day lined out for him to read about. It starts when he wakes up, has a scheduled time to get ready for school, a time for school, two blocks of free-time, a time for home-work and a shower, and bed time. I love it. I wish she would do that for me. I mean, if I knew that from 10:15-10:18 that I was going to be brushing my teeth, or that from 8:10-8:40 I would be knee-deep in free-time, I’d be a happy, happy man. Gav is a lot like me in this respect, so we try our best to stick to the schedule and make him a happy, happy mufkin.

There is a scheduled time for dinner, and it follows family time for a reason. We try to play games at family time and at dinner that encourage his interaction with others and help him learn to initiate conversation. These games are great, and I have learned so much about the people sitting around the table. They are so much fun, too, which is probably why they are so productive. They can be loud and spirited, which, in all honesty, would be how we ended up, regardless of the game. I’m pretty sure that we have the loudest Wii tournaments in the neighborhood. The kids and I played checkers outside of Cracker Barrel one day, and I soon noticed that we were being stink-eyed from every single Grandma and Grandpa that walked by, their sour faces frowning at our ever-increasing level of debauchery. Can’t help it, we’re a family of yellers. We holler when we get excited.

Last night, we are playing one of the games, and everyone is into it. Marley decides to act out her new ballet moves, but only from the waist up, and that gets Gav laughing so hard that he hasn’t said a word in minutes. If you have spent more than 5 minutes with the boy, you know that is something to talk about. Marley is really hamming it up, so we’re all laughing. I’m watching her twirl her hands over her head, fingers pointed oh-so-perfectly, while she has her eyes opened so wide that I can actually see the curvature of her eyeballs. Could be optical nerve I just saw, could be her dinner wiped on her head. All the while her hair is stuck to her forehead in a giant glob of ranch dressing, but that is nothing compared to the chunk of salmon on her cheek. It so big I can see the seasoning on it. Her mouth is puckered as if she is she is sucking on the thickest milkshake ever served, and she is making this really weird humming noise, like when you’ve vacuumed up something that was never meant to enter a vacuum.

I’m handling it well, but maybe just  because I find myself mimicking her facial expressions and watching her hands as if she’s a Hawaiian hula dancer telling the story of her ancestors’ escape from the volcano. Hope is laughing so hard that she is making a sound much like Marley’s, but only when she inhales. It’s really high-pitched and sounds like that obnoxious bike horn Mammoo just bought Marley. You know, the one where you squeeze the horn and it squeaks for about 30 mind-numbing seconds. Dogs die from those sounds, you know. I’m really worried about her, because she’s turning colors, but I decide that if she passes out, she will start to breathe normally again and all will be right.

I still haven’t heard Gav for a while, so I check him out. He’s still laughing, though not as hard as Hope, but enough to tell me that he’s enjoying the puppet show. Then I notice that his thumb is missing. I see all 9 other fingers, but no thumb. It should be there, I mean, he hasn’t been working on any running lawn mowers or using a circular saw, so where is his left thumb. Oh, there it is, up his nose.

Personally, I like to use the pinky for excavating. It’s smaller than the others, so it can maneuver in tight spaces a little better. I’ve used a forefinger, too, and have even experienced some success with a middle finger. I usually only pull that one out when I’m trying to make a statement, but it’s always there if I need it. Never, ever, have I even THOUGHT about using my thumb. It’s just so big and awkward, there’s only one joint, and then you have to worry about what to do with all the other fingers while you’re employing ol’ chubs to do some mining. Do you straighten them all out, like you’re waving, or do you ball them up into a fist? Seems menacing.

Anyway, I felt the need to address this issue. “You know, I don’t think the thumb is the best digit to use for digging out crusties, buddy.” Yes, this was actually a conversation that we had at the dinner table. I then proceeded to explain that the pinky was prime, followed closely by the first finger. I explained why I thought the thumb should be used for other jobs and not jammed up a nostril, all while Gav just stared at me blankly, thumb still one joint deep in his gold mine. I repeated my first sentence, word for word. “I don’t think the thumb is the best digit to use for digging out crusties, buddy.”

What did my Aspie reply with? “It is if you lick it first, Daddy,”

I have a strong stomach. I’ve changed some diapers that looked like someone melted a small Nicaraguan child in them. I’ve cleaned up gifts brought by the stomach bug that resembled what would happen if you fed your cat Fruity Pebbles and gin, then shook it up really, really hard. This was nothing compared to what I had just witnessed. I gagged a little, which he thought was hilarious. I tried to draw attention away from it by announcing that I didn’t think it was possible for a thumb to fit in a nostril.

“Mine does, too, Daddy.” I look across the table to see Marley with not one, but two thumbs up her nose. Sitting next to her is her mother, soon to be a lawyer, who is so conscious of how she is perceived, so that it doesn’t hurt her chances when she takes the bar exam or applies to firms. What is she doing? That’s right, testing out the fit of her thumb in her nostril.

You know I gotta try mine out, too. Guess what? It fits.

I bet you’re trying yours, right now. I bet some of you already did a few paragraphs back. Shame on you. Please wash your hands before commenting on this post.

It doesn’t take sharing a roof to be a dad.

I watched a movie tonight that I have seen a few times before. The movie was “The Blind Side”. You know, the one with Sandra Bullock and that big ol’ football player that made it to the NFL. Yeah, that one, the one that makes you just want to adopt some poor kid off the street and set him up for a career with a pro sports team. It’s a great movie, with a great message, but tonight it started my gravy-train a thinkin’ ’bout something else.

Even my wife commented on it. I am a lot like Sandra Bullock’s character. I would take absolutely every kid in that ever needed me. Maybe it’s my years as a youth pastor, but I have laid in bed at night thinking about how I could remodel the downstairs of my house to allow for two more bedrooms. Then, if I swapped out the kids’ twin  beds for bunk beds, I could sleep 6 kids upstairs, 4 downstairs. That’s a whole lotta youngins. I’d do it in a heartbeat, and my wife knows it. We talk about it constantly. Someday it will happen, but not right now. Right now we have law school, Gav’s development, and the focus on my career. So we will wait to take that giant leap.

I didn’t exactly have the normal father-son relationship that most kids have. My parents were married for most of my childhood, and got divorcced when I was 15. We moved just a few miles away from my father. While we were only miles apart geographically, we were thousands of miles apart emotionally. He was a no-nonsense type of guy, and I have always been a goofball. I have always been independent, and he felt the need to control everyting around him. Needless to say, we were never close, at all. Don’t get me wrong, people say that he is a great guy and would do anything for anyone, I’m just not one of those people.

I don’t necessarily remember looking for that “fatherly” relationship, but I remember when I found it.

Growing up, my family was very involved in church, and we had gone to the same church for as long as I could remember. Like most churches, we were very close with most of the people that attended. When I was a teenager, a young preacher joined our congregation, and started teaching a class. I got to know Robb very well, and became very close to him. He was only a few years older than me, so I soon started seeing him as a big brother. He lived next door to me, as well, so we spent a lot of time together outside of church. I came to see Robb as an authority figure, as he always seemws to be able to give great advice on anything that I was facing. I trusted him, felt comfortable with him, and soon started seeking his approval on different things in my life.

I looked up to Robb like I imagine most kids do to their father. I sought his advice on so many decisions in my life, and felt that I could confide absolutely anything in the world to him. I felt safer when he was around, wanted to absorb anything that he said, and felt so very disappointed in myself when I let him down. He was always there when I needed him, no matter what time of day or night it was. I remember sitting on his front porch (which was only a few feet away from mine), watching a lightning storm, feeling like I was miles away from anything that bothered me.

Robb wasn’t my father. He wasn’t my step-father, and he didn’t adopt me. I didn’t even live in his house, although I was there nearly as much as I was in my own. We didn’t share a last name. We didn’t share anything other than a bond. Robb didn’t have kids, and I doubt that he saw me as one of his kids. I think that he just saw me as a kid who needed someone to just listen, give a litte advice, and pat me on the back every now and then. He kicked my butt when I needed it, picked m up when I fell, and made me smile when I needed to. He was a father-figure to me, without ever being a father to me.

When I watched that movie tonight, I thought about how I want to help every needy child that I come across. I thought about how full my house would quickly become, and how happy that would make me. Eventually, though, the square footage will run out. I won’t be able to fit anymore beds into my house, even after an Extreme Home Makeover. There are going to be some kids that I just can’t provide for.

Then I realized that they don’t necessarily have to live under my roof. There are so many children, just like I was, that aren’t looking for someone to move into their homes, but they are looking for someone to take an interest in what they are doing. They are looking for someone who cares about what they are going through, who will listen when they need to vent, and who will be there for them when something goes bad or good. Someone to share the joy and the frustration.

So, throughout these next few months, as we finish law school, and OT and ABA therapy and work on opening new restaurants, I know that I won’t have the option to adopt, take in foster children, or even just have some random kid in need stay in my house. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be a dad to someone who needs it. That doesn’t mean that I won’t positively impact some child’s life, just by being there, by being involved. It doesn’t take sharing a roof to be a dad.