Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

February 04, 2002

How Dada Goes Back to Cool

By Adam Berliant (Lucy's Dad)

As Lucy gets older and significantly wiser, I am yet again settling into some of the unwanted realities of being the father. And I’d like to encourage you, Dada, to remember these two words: Give up.

Allow me to explain.

Not long ago, I was driving to my neighborhood grocery store. At an intersection on the way, I saw a large, silver sports utility vehicle pull up to the stop sign. It was a brand new Lexus, with a black interior and 6 tons of chrome trim. It had a ski rack on top and a bike rack on the back. It had fog lights suspended from the grill, a 300 cylinder engine spewing jerky-scented smoke and tires made by Boeing. You could just make out the leather seats, the eagle feather hanging from the rearview mirror, and I think I saw kayak paddles in cargo. Inside was a man with a Clint Eastwood beard, a James Dean haircut, a Harrison Ford scowl and a Sam Sheppard leather jacket, whose face was lit up a little by the GPS in-dashboard display, I suppose. By comparison, I guess I should be happy that I have Woody Allen’s nasal condition.

But the defining feature of the car, and the man, really was none of those things.

Sorry to say, the Winnie the Pooh sunshades stuck to the back windows pretty much ruined the whole image. Seeing Pooh and Piglet holding hands, carrying balloons and protecting “precious cargo” was all it took to reveal that our rugged explorer was actually just the same as me: Dada, running an errand.

Accessorizing was futile. This Dada was not cool. And neither are the rest of you. You are on a rainbow-colored plastic slide to the land of lackluster, and you’re going to have to get used to it. I, for one, have held onto a pair of expensive Oakley sunglasses, but that’s pretty much where it stops. And I feel lucky every time I wear them, but mostly because they cover the bags under my eyes.

I’ve discovered that Dada’s only hope to be cool, is to be cool to the one person in the world you can still impress: your toddler. So, for this I started making great efforts, because as you know, coolness is like food and water.

For example, Lucy has shown some excitement over the notion of being in a fort. She likes to hide under a blanket. She likes to crawl under the table. She enjoys peeking from behind upright pillows, and so on. So, Martha and I bought her a small Ikea tent in November. And she loved it.

“Tent, tent,” she said, pointing to it when I got home from work. She’d walk in, then out, then in, then out.

Then over the holidays, my parents (not knowing we already had a tent) bought us an even bigger tent.

“Tent, tent,” Lucy said, climbing over the box, begging us to open it. When we finally did, she decided that she would prefer to eat her peanut butter sandwiches in her new, big tent, as opposed to her high chair, booster chair, or any other normal, toddler place to sit.

So, a few weeks back, I went to REI, thanks to a generous gift certificate I received from some friends and co-workers. The choice was obvious.

“Tent, tent,” I said to the salesman. And I bought the biggest tent REI makes or, I think, has ever made.

The tent is so big, the store doesn’t even put it on display. I think it’s a fire code violation, or something. At one point Martha asked me why on Earth I would need a tent that could easily double as a garage. Have I even been camping in the past 5 years? The answer was simple. Soon Lucy will be big enough to go camping for real. And when that time comes, I want Lucy to be astounded, speechless, bowled over and in every way amazed at the size of her tent. And I want her to think, Dada is soooo cool!

If I only go camping with Lucy one time, and I get the cool label, I will be happy.

It doesn’t stop with the tent, though. Lucy finds it very cool that I give her root beer instead of milk. She points at the plastic bottle and yells “moot boo!” and sometimes does a little dance. Lucy is definitely impressed with me when a Nestle Crunch Bar actually does qualify as a healthy snack. It is “milk” chocolate, after all. Lucy agrees that TV is cool, especially the “Funniest Animals” show, which she recognizes offers no educational qualities, except lessons in how animals defend themselves by kicking.

She thinks rubber boots with pajamas is a very cool outfit, so therefore, so do I. And sometimes, she gives me major points for pushing the shopping cart SUPER fast through the aisles of Target. She seems to especially admire me when I climb on the cart with her as it’s rolling out of control, and yell, “I’m king of the world!”

I’m aware, of course, this gets me no cool points with anyone else.

But, there’s something about seeing the look on your kid’s face, when she’s standing in her tent, wearing bumble-bee boots and green pajamas, wiping milk chocolate all over her face that makes you realize, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet are plenty cool enough, and it’s OK to give up on the rest.

Except the sunglasses, of course. There’s a limit to everything.


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