A father is so many things. A teacher, friend, chef, adventurer, basic problem solver, advanced problem solver, self-defense instructor, scary movie scene blinder, scientist, disciplinarian, friend, snuggle buddy and on and on. I had no idea when I became a father I would suddenly be thrust into this never ending world of roles. When I was single, or at the most ‘just married,' there was just me.
This is not an issue regarding my own existential state of mind or even a notion regarding some sort of burden. Rather, it's an observation into what has changed in me over the last six years and nine months, give or take. And, looking back, I love what I have come to learn. Prior to having my first son, I made a bet about how simple and organized my life would be as a father with an already experienced father who laughed and shook my hand with $1000 at stake. I still haven't paid him and hope he doesn't read our blog. God knows he'd send me to collections if he could.
This year is already starting off as a busy one for us on the blog. Chelsea and I are making three flights to Florida this last month alone for work and bringing all four boys for the last trip. This week, Chelsea waited until I got off from work at 7am before immediately taking off for the airport on her solo trip, leaving me all alone with the boys. I watched her leave and made a small inside not-so-inside joke about me being okay babysitting the kids while she's away playing with seashells (she and I both refer to the common use of “babysit” in reference to fatherhood as a naïve and backward comment).
So, what to do? I'm a MAN, damn it. Duh! I have to make this a competition. During my “normal” work hours, I get two types of calls. One when people call me by pressing 9-1-1, I get to drive really fast (top speed so far is only 128mph), play with guns, play professional adult freeze tag/narcotic scavenger hunt and peek-a-boo etc. The other is when Chelsea calls 1-800-superhotawesomesexydad (it's a European number) to tell me interesting things like “your kids just lit the goat on fire, so, yeah, when you get home…” This all just builds up to days or weeks when I get the boys all to myself. Why? Because I have to show her I can do it so much better with obligatory “loving moment” texts sent at no extra charge.
After three days of just being adorable and perfect, I'd had my fill. With Wednesday through Friday already in the books as Hallmark days, I began to pace. Some Boy had enjoyed his Saturday fun at home with his brothers, but I was left feeling a bit restless. It had been months since I'd taken my truck out on a legitimate trip with the boys and the itch to get out was quickly turning into a burn. It was already 2pm on a fine Saturday afternoon, so to the computer I went. Thanks to a French website called “Google Maps” (pronounced like it sounds), I was able to conduct geographic evaluations of the most probable destination. As Sunday night is the first day of my work cycle, I had to find a destination within sixish hours.
“Point Loma? Too close and boring. Vegas? No! Not enough time to get tickets for a show and they frown on baby carrying at the craps tables. The Grand Canyon would require an additional ten hours round trip. What to do? Redwoods? Too far. New Mexico? Hahaha. There's nothing there!” I muttered to myself. Then, I saw it. The Trona Pinnacles! Just three hours and forty-five minutes north of us, I could easily make this trip, let the boys play, make Chelsea super jealous, and be home before work.
Bottle, extra formula, diapers, spare baby onesie, camera, Leupold Binoculars, lucky underwear and phone chargers all went into the truck and we were rolling.
Of course, I've learned to feed and change the baby before embarking on such a voyage. Once I had the baby topped off with an oil change, we were away. I was expecting a stop to feed the three tooth bearing boys so made a quick run through In N Out. Classic!
Less than two Doubles-Doubles later, my BF Goodrich All-terrains were back on the open road headed north. Trips like these go so much smoother when you have great road trip music to take your mind off the monotony of…well…sitting. Some Boy requested his favorite song, “Burn it Down” by Linkin Park about six times followed by a close second request by Sidekick of “Ride” by 21 Pilots.
Minion just politely stared out the window drinking his chocolate shake.
We jetted on up the 15 freeway at a brisk 70mph, only occasionally employing my 500+ horsepower diesel engine to gently pass a Prius or two on the way up the grade in the Cajon Pass. Honestly, I do get a fair amount of joy as my 8000+lb truck climbs a hill with little to no effort.
As we ascended, our collective thoughts and conversation were drawn upward. “Where are we going, Dada?” A common question shot forth from one of the back seats. “To the stars, buddy,” I replied. I reveled in the moment as I took in the responsibility and honor of fatherhood. I spent the next thirty minutes explaining why we couldn't see the stars in the day only to resort to, “The stars don't like Shine Shine so they wait until Shine Shine goes ni-ni before they come out.” Now, early Greek mythology and the theories of Anaximander made more sense as far as their understanding of the universe.
Baby Bam started fussing some 20 miles up Highway 395 and I knew two things; a diaper change followed by a fresh delicious bottle must be accomplished. Fortunately, over the last few years, I had honed my truck into an exploring vessel worthy of such children. Off to the back of the truck where my Bedslide lay in wait to become one of the best mobile changing tables within 50 miles. A quick stop at one of the last gas stations before our destination gave me a chance to load our Snomaster travel fridge with TruMoo chocolate milk to treat the boys upon arrival. I set Bam on our travel blanket next to the fridge and took in the scene around me as the desert landscape was bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun.
Then I took a picture.
Not much longer down the road we came to our turn off. The asphalt gave way to dusty and rocky dirt and I could see the road was not going to be smooth. Washboard texture the ground just a few hundred feet ahead and memories of chattering teeth forced me out of my truck to deflate my BF Goodrich tires. I had learned, just a few years prior, that dropping the pressure not only improved ride comfort but even increased traction significantly if done properly. Some Boy offered to come out to help me but his efforts were quickly deterred to a jubilant search for “shiny rocks.” His excitement amused me as we were parked on thousands of “shiny rocks” and I realized his standards for ‘special things' were still relatively low. Even though I was diligently releasing the pressure from my tires, I mentally consumed the glee of a six-year-old's discoveries. “Oh! Here's one, Dada. Here's another one. Oh, another one!”
We drove in under a blanket of darkness. It was impossible to spot all the stars as Sidekick fearfully demanded the cab lights be left on lest we be attacked by something outside. Inside, I burned to explain the counterintuitiveness of his thinking as interior lighting just gave us away and blinded us to what was actually outside and the best option would be to keep the inside as dark as possible. But alas. He's only four. I can't even break it down to cones and rods yet.
We found our spot, away from some of the other visitors in the area and set up. The Bedslide rolled out with our Snomaster safely housing the chocolate milk. It's funny how fast chocolate milk goes down such tiny throats. I made a makeshift stargazing bed for Minion to lay on as the voyage left him feeling a bit tuckered out. The boys burned off their excitement playing with flashlights and dinosaurs. Baby Bam bounced and bounced in my arms as the mystery of the darkness, twinkling stars, and warm desert breeze filled him with energy.
I was satisfied. Sure, this was but a few hours under the stars some 200 miles from home, but this was our moment. A fragment in time and a memory for the boys to stow away for their future like a constellation guiding travelers of old back home.
All I could do now was smile, as a father. One of so many things.