Book Proposal: The Art of Being A Dad
by Mark Wagner

Being A Dad is ________


Being A Dad is… finding, holding, seeing, noticing, knowing, not knowing, having, being, getting, imagining, asking, driving, watching, writing, playing, doing, spending, waking, going, staying, laughing, telling, realizing, wondering, drawing, making, leaving, hearing, forgetting, buying, sitting, feeling, helping, putting, running, driving, napping, falling, practicing, taking, standing, wishing, placing, thinking, arranging, distinguishing, not-liking, showing, knowing, letting, worrying, reaching, enjoying, suggesting, experiencing, missing, imposing, and wondering.

BEING a DAD is ___________

1. Finding diapers in my truck and on my drawing tables.

2. Holding my kids while they are throwing up.

3. Seeing the pain on the older ones face when she sees that her little sister just got a new Barbie.

4. Noticing that the only thing not moving on the soccer field is my 1st grader.

5. Not knowing then that in 4 years the coach will say she is the fastest kid on the team.

6. Having the little one tell me she loves me at 2am after I give her cough medicine.

7. Knowing that if the bigger one stays up to midnight for New Year’s, we’ll all suffer the next day when she is tired and ornery. Instead of saying no, I say, “how about I wake you up at midnight?” She squeals “Yeah!” and runs off.

8. Having her not remember me trying to wake her up at midnight.

9. Being on a solo trip and finding a beautiful grove of eucalyptus trees and wishing my kids were with me, knowing they would love to see and smell this.

10. Being home when the bigger one loses her first tooth while eating grapes in the shower. There is blood running down her face and she is thrilled.

11. Getting a belly.

12. Finding a puddle of water with the kids to throw stones into for what seems like hours.

13. Writing a story about a little girl who doesn't have to marry a prince like all the movies say she should if she wants to be happy. Writing a story about a little girl who is deeply connected to herself and happy just the way she is.

14. Asking the little one “who loves me?” and having her answer “me,” and then naming other family and friends, and in the end saying, “me!” That’s when I knew we are doing a good job.

15. Watching a movie in bed with headphones on while easily being able to hear the kids if they need me.

16. Doing things around the house before I am asked, like moving the laundry, cooking, cleaning, taking on bath and bedtime with the kids.

17. Spending Father’s Day alone because mom and the kids are out of town.

18. Feeling sad that my kids are not with me.

19. Waking up to hear the little one singing Happy Father’s Day to me to the tune of Happy Birthday.

20. Going to a kid’s dance performance that my first graders teacher is in. The teacher comes out singing and wearing lingerie and I tap another dad on the shoulder and tell him that she is my kid’s teacher and he answers, “you're lucky.”

21. Staying at the dance performance until my kid falls asleep on my lap and then leaving early.

22. Being able to pick my kids voices out in a crowd.

23. Being with my kids when Grandpa takes them fishing for the first time.

24. Laughing when the little one almost catches grandpa with her fishing lure.

25. Talking to her about cooking him up with butter.

26. Seeing lightning bugs for the first time and catching some.

27. Telling my kids that I am going to do a science experiment on one of the lightning bugs and that I will have to kill one to do this.

28. Realizing that it’s not a good idea because the older one who loves animals and creatures is already beginning to freak out.

29. Having both kids tell me the next night that they’re ready to see the experiment. We say a prayer and squish the bug and see how it glows. The kids are amazed.

30. Experiencing the first plane ride where the kids don’t need my total attention, where we are not walking up and down the aisles, or forcing their seatbelt to stay on, or cleaning up someone’s puke or changing diapers.

31. Getting on a plane and realizing my beloved window seat may be taken for the next decade or more by my kids.

32. Being grateful when I later realize that they aren’t interested in that seat and prefer the aisle seat.

33. Watching another baby on its mama’s shoulder watching me.

34. Noticing that little kids and animals are attracted to me.

35. Making sure the seat belt stays on my kid while the plane lands as they kick, scream, and cry really loud.

36. Watching one kid give the other kid chicken pox’s on the face with a red pen.

37. Leaving home for a week and having the bigger one wake up all by herself at 5am to give me a stuffed animal to take on my trip so I “won’t forget me.”

38. Getting a cold and losing my voice enough that my little kid says, “oh you are really sick, you should lay down.”

39. Hearing that mom and the kids tried to go camping while I was away for the week and within 10 minutes of driving out of town the little threw up and the bigger one mentioned that she didn't’t feel so good either.

40. Hearing that they all turned around and went home and as they entered the house the bigger one threw up. Mom got sick the next day.

41. Listening to the excited little one on the phone describe who threw up in the car and who threw up on the stairs and who made it to the toilet.

42. Honestly being glad I was out of the country and wouldn't’t be home for a week, and not getting sick.

43. Listening to the kids made up song that goes, “if you want to be like me, then you got to be me.”

44. Watching the older one trying to pull out her second tooth with a pair of pliers in front of the mirror.

45. Accidentally forgetting to tell the kids their time out is over because they are playing so well together upstairs and the downstairs is so quiet.

46. Having a red kid’s marker on my worktable.

47. Sitting the bigger one on my lap while she is crying her eyes out after getting a big owie on her leg.

48. Drawing a large oval around the hurt with that red marker.

49. Telling her to imagine that each line I draw out from the red circle is helping the pain move from where it hurts the most to the rest of her body so that it won’t just hurt in one place and that this help the pain go away.

50. Watching her draw a red heart right on top of where it hurts the most, then she stops crying and runs off to play.

51. Feeling sad when the bigger one comes home from a play date and instantly wants another one.

52. Becoming aware that she can’t quite bear to be alone, or still, or be quiet by herself.

53. Asking her what she likes to do by herself and she says, “have a play date.”

54. Feeling sad about this.

55. Giving her a foot massage and hearing her say, “ah… it’s like I can almost relax.”

56. Realizing that is something I can give her for the rest of her life – foot massages.

57. Creating an hour of quiet time a day to help her practice being alone, still, and quiet.

58. Putting the training wheel “back on” the bike after I had just taken them off, and letting the little one help.

59. Running down a long driveway behind the little one who is running while pulling a flying kite.

60. Knowing she is the one who often falls down and crashes into things.

61. Watching her run faster and longer than I have ever seen her.

62. Feeling afraid that she will fall and wipe out really bad. I don’t want to stop her because she is so happy and free. At least I can be right here if she does crash and burn.

63. Being right behind her at the bottom of the hill when she stops and turns around to see if I am still there.

64. Hearing her say in her panting voice, “I want to do that again!”

65. Wishing that I had had my camera with me, running behind her would have made an awesome photograph.

66. Falling asleep with my kids in my arms.

67. Knowing when they fall asleep by the way their breathing changes.

68. Imagining that by looking deep into my kid’s eyes I can see my ancestors, and by looking even deeper into my parent’s eyes, I can see my kid’s kids.

69. Yelling at my kids, feeling bad, feeling very tired and fragile.

70. Holding a younger friend’s little baby for the first time.

71. Practicing with the little one how to spell her name until she can write it all by herself.

72. Taking her to the library to get her first library card.

73. Standing behind her, watching as she writes her name on the form.

74. Smiling when she gets to her last name, pauses, takes a deep breath, and continues getting everything correct.

75. Being there when she turns around and looks up at me to see if I saw what she just did and seeing her smile.

76. Having tears in my eyes knowing I was the one who helped her practice and the one who gets to be with her now.

77. Feeling proud to be a dad, her dad.

78. Realizing the big one doesn't “get” baseball because I haven’t taught her about the game. She is confused at her first professional ball game because the big screens playing music and other forms of entertainment are way more interesting than the real game way down on the field.

79. Placing two little girls under the supervision of a security guard while I go into the men’s room.

80. Listening to the little one tell me about how she threw up three times at the babysitters.

81. Having the older one get sick just listening to the story.

82. Thinking the older one is faking it until I find her on her knees in front of the toilet.

83. Asking my kids to carry me when I get old.

84. Buying a motorcycle helmet for the bigger one’s seventh birthday present.

85. Being in the doghouse for coming home late for dinner while being out on the motorcycle with her.

86. Having mom leave town for ten days and then getting a job that I cannot pass on that would take me out of town.

87. Driving around until both kids are asleep, then opening the art studio garage door, driving in, closing the door, and working for 1⁄2 hour with both kids still asleep in their car seats.

88. Arranging all by myself for the kids to be with other parents and baby sitters.

89. Talking to the older one about her fears and sadness about me leaving. Telling her they are important and powerful but to not get lost in them.

90. Telling her that there are many rooms in her heart and that one of them is where I live. If she ever needs me and I am not around she can always go inside and find me.

91. Having everything work out perfect so that when mom comes home things are totally handled.

92. Putting on a video for the kids when I really need to.

93. Hearing someone crying and letting them work it out, knowing that if they really need me they know where to find me.

94. Distinguishing between different cries; knowing exactly what a physical hurt cry sounds like.

95. Hearing how the big one deals with bad guys in her mind at night. She puts gum on their backs and throws them onto a far wall where they get stuck. Then she concentrates on things that she loves.

96. Hearing for the first time the sound of the dentist’s drill on my kids.

97. Not-liking to make lunches.

98. Needing to get a male dog because there are way too many girls in the house, even the two cats and the hamster are girls.

99. Having my kids wear my shirts for PJs at night.

100. Trying to get my kids to eat a certain fish because it’s “good for them,” when in truth it doesn't really taste that good and I notice the cat doesn't even want to eat it.

101. Falling asleep on the floor in the bookstore while reading to the little one.

102. Noticing one kid likes to hold hands while the other one doesn't.

103. Having the kids all day on a Saturday and keeping the TV off.

104. Facing a problem when the little one is “too tired” and she “can’t” ride her little bike any further and I just took the kid-seat off the back of my bike and we have a mile to go before me get home. Thinking creatively, I tie the two bikes together with my money waist pouch strap and slowly tow her home with her smiling the whole way. After a while she says, “Dad, I can take it from here.”

105. Showing up at the elementary school to lecture and teach art classes.

106. Becoming aware that there are no art teachers in my kid’s elementary school and then creating a year long artist-in-residency to help have more art and creativity in the school.

107. Feeling sad when my little one asks me to snuggle at bedtime and I say “no, not tonight” without having a good reason.

108. Knowing it is not humanly possible to give my kids all that I’d like to give them, which is everything.

109. Realizing the importance of Sunday morning cartoons when mom climbs back in bed with me.

110. Being nervous about getting a dog because it maybe like taking on another kid in the family and I am not sure that's a good idea.

111. Realizing that, on the very first night home, our new dog is already family.

112. Having the little one pretend to read to the dog.

113. Hearing the big one say, “I can’t believe we have a dog, it’s almost like we are renting him.”

114. Watching the little one offer a Barbie to the dog.

115. Having her later need my help because the dog isn't giving the Barbie back.

116. Watching a new, deep, long lasting relationship being built between kids and the dog.

117. Loving that when the little one falls and cries the first thing she wants is mommy (who is not around), and the second thing she asks for is the dog.

118. Keeping my own course when mom is having a bad hair day.

119. Leaving my kids home alone when they are old enough and I have to run to the corner store to get cream for my coffee...and leaving the dog in charge, because he weighs the most.

120. Showing the kids how to light a fire and talking to them about being safe and responsible.

121. Telling them I won’t stop trying until we light the fire together and seeing how excited that makes them.

122. Watching them for the first time work a lighter and then light the fire with my supervision.

123. Realizing this is a special moment, a right of passage, an initiation.

124. Noticing how well the little one learns by just watching.

125. Being able to take the kids to work with me at night. I take them down to the art studio, eventually stuff them into sleeping bags, and keep working late into the night. Then I pile them, still in their sleeping bags, into the truck and take them home.

126. Knowing that on other nights, after I hang out with the kids at bed time, I will go back to work in my office studio where it’s quiet and no one will be bothering me as I work late into the night with sleeping kids and a wife in the house.

127. Letting my kids do things without me telling them all the time exactly how to do it.

128. Wondering what behavior traits (both positive and negative) I am directly and indirectly conveying to my kids.

129. Driving in the truck and listening to my rave-trance music, one kid’s head bobs up and down while the other kid asks me to turn it off because it’s giving her a headache.

130. Being at the doctors with both kids when the little one gets her finger pricked for a blood test and she screams so loud that I can see the sound bouncing off the ceiling and I know the rest of the entire building can hear her.

131. Noticing, as the little one continues to scream that the bigger one begins to shrink away and curl up in a ball because she is sensitive.

132. Reaching over and putting my hand on her, making physical contact with her, bringing her back from the abyss to stay connected to me and me to her.

133. Having the little one not look at me, not want to walk near me, not want to talk to me afterwards as we walk back to the car.

134. Noticing that the little one falls, crashes, and trips almost every day hurting herself.

135. Suggesting to the little one that she talk to her body and ask it to help her not get hurt so much, and watching and listening to her do it.

136. Having the little one later tell me that you’re the “bestest dad” in the whole wide world.

137. Feeling really connected to my kids.

138. Experiencing heaven on a warm, sunny, spring day while lying on the grass in the middle of a field with two kids and a dog who is lying on me as me watch the clouds move and the trees sway in the wind.

139. Feeling relieved that mom found the missing tooth in the garbage that she accidentally threw away.

140. Making a new rule, “No roller skates at dinner.”

141. Listening to the little one crying her eyes out, and knowing that she is with mom everything is okay and there is thankfully nothing that I need to do.

142. Missing the moment my kid wanted me “not to miss.” Looking up just in time to see that she saw that I had missed the moment and feeling I had betrayed her and myself.

143. Imposing quiet time in the car when the kids are driving me nuts, and hearing the older one say, “well I’ll just talk to myself then.”

144. Feeling sad when my kid seems to have no remorse about being mean and hurting the feelings of one of my friends.

145. Feeling bad about accidentally letting the little one get sunburned.

146. Hearing the older one says “sex” for the first time and when asked what it means, she holds up two potato chips and she chings them together. Yup…she knows.

147. Needing to figure out a new way to get through the morning because constantly reminding everyone what needs to get done before we get out the door and off to school is having me feel angry. We later make a list of “what to dos.”

148. Knowing that when I am with my kids, other people feel safer around me because I’m a dad and not just some guy on his own. This sense of trust feels good to me. I feel more trustworthy to myself and to others.

149. Wondering if I play with my kids enough. Not just be around them, but interacting and engaging in something that is meaningful to both of us.

150. Loving the Journey!

Copyright © 2008 Mark Wagner. All rights reserved.