What No One Told Me: I Turned Into My Dad?

photo credit: scribbletaylor via photopin cc
photo credit: scribbletaylor

Recently I learned my friend Melissa is a fellow blogger and she is hilarious. I jumped at the chance to have her write something for me so here’s a special Monday treat for all of you. Enjoy!

When Toni asked if I’d contribute to her “What No One Told Me” series, I was super excited because I’m a fan of TBTL and One Bad Mother (two podcasts she frequents!), but was also at a loss because I had already covered the holy trinity of topics: pregnancy, labor, and poop. I figured if I waited a couple of days, something unexpected would happen. I have a 2-year-old, and at least once a week something surprising comes up. I mean, it wouldn’t be something I didn’t expect if I was expecting it, right?

Like Domino’s pizza, the unexpected arrived on time and with the same amount of guilt.

My relationship with my mother is really frayed. In fact, currently the singular tenet of being successful as a parent boils down to not turning out like her, which is admittedly an awful thing to say. No parent wants to hear that, and no kid wants to feel like that, but there it is. There is the obvious exclusionary “I Hate My Life” and “I Hate You” puberty clauses of ages 12 to 18, which are totally normal, totally dreaded, and totally expected. I deserve and embrace the day my teenage daughter slams a door in my face because it’s a rite of passage that I will not be denied.

I assure you that this post really isn’t about that at all. It’s instead about how nature abhors a vacuum. This week, I had the realization that vacuums are great, but sometimes they suck.

Here’s what I didn’t expect. In the desperation of not turning into my mom, I have somehow turned into my dad. This is especially unfortunate because I have two x-chromosomes, and scream in just that pitch when I see a spider across the room. Aside from that, I’m a lady in possibly the vaguest sense of the word. I’m from rural Maine, I hold the spitting-for-distance record at my high school, and I taught a guy at a tattoo parlor how to jump a car.

Yeah, gents, I’m taken. I’m sure my beloved is super excited to hear that he married my father, with boobs and better hair.

Not only have I turned out like my dad, but in all the ways that I endlessly mocked him for in past years. He was in the military, is still a cop, and reenacted the Revolutionary War for fun. I have … well, fond isn’t the right word…. memories of my dad cleaning his Brown Bess in front of potential dates when I was in high school. He would make his own bullets while “talking” with boys I’d bring over. I honestly didn’t think that this was odd behavior until the boyfriends stopped coming around. I didn’t have many friends until I found theatre, and maybe my West Point Shooting Instructor father hanging around in knickers and guns might have had a little something to do with that.

I always made fun of him for outfits like this, which as his kid was my birthright and duty. As a human, was also my right – because, seriously! My dad wore wool knickers, for fun, in public.

I tease because I love. These guys helped raise me, and later taught me a lot about holding my liquor, but it was hard to explain to people as a teenager that hanging out “at The Fort” really wasn’t code.
I tease because I love. These guys helped raise me, and later taught me a lot about holding my liquor, but it was hard to explain to people as a teenager that hanging out “at The Fort” really wasn’t code.

So color me surprised when the activity I fell in love with in college required me to wear this sexy number:

As it turns out, hanging around bayonets and knickers all my life must have had an effect. That’s me with the red bandana and fencing gear in 2003, my last year of college.
As it turns out, hanging around bayonets and knickers all my life must have had an effect. That’s me with the red bandana and fencing gear in 2003, my last year of college.

My dad is the only guy I know that inherited a dog-sledding team without really knowing a lick about dogs, sledding, or dogsledding. His friend, Jack, trained his whole life to run the hardest race in the world. When he finished the race in the 90’s, he gave my dad 10 dogs, left town for Florida, and was never heard from again. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

When I got off the school bus to find every kid’s dream in our backyard, it didn’t occur to me at all that most kids have to beg for one dog, let alone a pack of Alaskan huskies. Knowing that, it’s obvious that my vocation didn’t come out of left field. Now I sit as the Co-Training Director of the oldest AKC obedience club in the country. I really wanted to be a barista, because free coffee is awesome, but I guess that just wasn’t going to happen.

Perhaps the most striking similarity between my dad and I, aside from Irish whiskey during The Church Of Football Sunday (the quantity depends on victory or defeat), goes back to how we handle medical care. As a kid, we lived 50 minutes from the nearest doctor or hospital. Though we all survived childhood, I’m still shocked that we did.

When I was 6, I slipped on a roller skate and catapulted fist-first, Superman style, through a window. A piece of glass sliced the inside of my wrist across the veins. 30 years later, it still makes for awkward conversation with pretty much every medical professional I’ve ever consulted with. (“Sure. You fell through a window.”) Dad ran the injury under cold water, instructed my grandmother to give me ibuprofen for pain, change the bandages daily, and “look out for anything that could be a sign of tetanus.”

When I was attacked by the family dog, the answer wasn’t “let’s get her checked out and put her on antibiotics!” Instead, it was “put peroxide on it, keep it elevated and take three ibuprofen.”

Every sprain, every bump, and every fever had the same prescription: Lay on the couch, watch the Price is Right, and take 3 ibuprofen. It’s a good thing that I’m Irish, because otherwise I don’t think my liver would have genetically been able to handle all of those NSAIDs.

He really wasn’t being neglectful. If you lived where we did, and had kids as precocious as we were, you just had to patch ‘em up as best as possible and anything short of a through-and-through wound was just dealt with. If the symptoms worsened, or something fell off that shouldn’t, then we would go to the doctor. So, unsurprisingly, my first reaction to most medical scenarios is to wait it out.

This week, when my daughter had a fever for two days, my husband wanted to call the doctor. Thinking that this was just a fever and it would run its course, I scoffed and put off calling. When he came home that night, I said “nothing a little ibuprofen and Sesame Street can’t fix.” He insisted we call the pediatrician, which I did, grudgingly. They suggested I bring the baby in the next day if her fever continued.

The fever continued.

I called the doctor and was surprised, nay, SHOCKED, that they wanted me to bring her in for a fever. She wasn’t dehydrated, she was a little lethargic, but she wasn’t feeling good. I thought they were thinking “yeah, that mom, she’s one of those moms.” I didn’t want to be the mom always bringing her kid for every little sniffle and cough. I wasn’t raised like that. I thought anything short of coughing up blood or a missing limb would be frowned upon.

They ran some tests (to rule things out).

They found the cause of her illness.

Strep.

I’m an asshole.

There isn’t enough PBS to cure Strep! What was I thinking not calling the doctor? And then it totally hit me – I did what I knew. I decided to wait until her symptoms got worse or a secondary symptom arose. Just because my husband said to call earlier than I would have does not indicate that I wouldn’t have eventually called. We just happened to figure out what the issue was before it was really obvious, and hopefully before either of us contracted it. The jury is still out on that

Sometimes it’s just a cold, sometimes it’s something more serious, and sometimes you just have to put on your big girl knickers and admit you were wrong.

So thanks to my dad for all the stories. I still tell the funniest story about cell phone miscommunication of which my dad is a pivotal player. Dad might not have done the best medically, but he did teach me how to pick a good partner: one who drives a stick shift, and supports his family with hard work; one who will support his wife to follow her bliss….and one who will actually call the doctor if something is medically concerning. Our daughter is very lucky indeed to have a caring dad and a flighty mom. Imagine the stories she will tell some day!

Uh oh. What’s that tickle in my throat? Motherfu….

Melissa’s most recent discovery is that (at least at this stage) raising dogs and raising toddlers are unnervingly similar. http://didntexpectthat.wordpress.com/ is her pregnancy blog; and http://letterstolittle.wordpress.com/ are letters to her daughter. http://muttstuff.blogspot.com is her dog blog, if you’re into that sort of thing.


Whatcha think?