Month: December 2017

This Is Not the Dad You’re Looking For….


Another parenting milestone today.  One I absolutely saw coming.  Utterly predictable. Should have accepted it with grace.  Better yet, I could have avoided it altogether. Alas, I attempted one more “spandex-suited school lunch” with my second born than the universe would allow. And when I say “universe,” I mean my newly-minted 12 year-old’s sense of propriety. 

This is a tradition I have enjoyed for approximately a dozen years, give or take, since my elder son was a kindergartner.  Saddle up and ride my bike from our home in San Francisco out to my sons’ school in Marin. Slide into the cafeteria line, and enjoy a little lunch with one of my boys.  When Max or Everett measured up merely to my navel, these unannounced journeys would be met with genuine “My Dad is here! My Dad is here!” over-the-top enthusiasm.  They might even jump into my arms at a full sprint, causing my slick cycling shoes to lose purchase with the pavement. I don’t think this magic ever wore off for Max, even as he grew taller, older, and graduated out.  

Everett, on the other hand, is officially over it. After today, I suspect he would avert his eyes, disclaim my paternity, possibly take a vow of silence as it relates to me, should I tempt fate with a lunchtime bike ride ever again. 

Back to today. I arrived at school with a few minutes to spare before the appointed lunch hour of 12:05pm, using it to clean up in the adult restroom, so as not to appear a sweaty mess with a mohawk-esque hairdo.  As I duck-walked towards the bathroom, I saw a strangely familiar face head off in the other direction — at least I thought I saw a familiar face.  I dismissed the notion almost immediately, as I was already wasting precious time and had to focus on stepping daintily in the name of safety with cycling shoes that aren’t made for stepping on anything. Plus, why in the world would George Lucas be hanging around my kids’ school? 

So I cleaned up.  Cleaned up nice, even. Made my way (carefully, again) back to the usual rendezvous point at which I’ve met my sons dozens of times over a dozen years.  I saw Everett come running at a full sprint with the rest of his buddies, as if none had eaten in weeks.  I felt the familiar feeling of expectation and anticipation as he approached. Our eyes met, he stopped short, and I knew — immediately — that I had made a terrible mistake.  I was not the Dad he was looking for, “Star Wars” aficionados might have said.  I suspect he didn’t want to see any Dad. Certainly not his dad, at least not while his dad was decked out in spandex.  

To Everett’s credit, he was polite. (His parents have evidently taught him some manners.) We sat across from each other at the lunch table, my legs cramping due to a seat too close to the floor, and ate.  Unlike every other lunch like this over the years, he and I were an island unto ourselves.  His school chums did not sit with us.  No high-fives with anyone — though I have coached many of them on baseball and basketball teams over the years. Ev suffered through 15 minutes of relative ostracism. Gamely — if monosyllabically — answering my vanilla questions that fell flat at striking up a meaningful conversation.  Thankfully, the kiddie rumor mill confirmed that George Lucas had apparently visited campus that morning.  My “sighting” of him sparked a few seconds of novelty and appreciation in my 6th grader’s eyes, saving me from an otherwise disastrous lunch. 

Everett and I became separated in the chaotic recycling/composting/garbage line that immediately follows lunch.  I scanned the room and playground.  But he wasn’t there.  For a moment or two more, I hung around out of force of habit. I am conditioned to his needing to see me, and his feeling abandoned if I disappear unannounced without saying goodbye. The moment passed.  And that period of his life where he needed to see me and say goodbye has passed, too, I realized, standing there in my spandex and slippery cycling shoes.  

Yet another instance where I grudgingly acknowledge that I am slowly working myself out of the best job I have ever had: Being Dad. 

I geared up for the long ride home, without exchanging goodbyes with my son.  A bit of an empty feeling in my stomach, despite the full plate of cafeteria food gurgling away in there.  The trek back to San Francisco was more challenging than it should have been, most likely because I had taken a bit of an emotional hit.  I arrived back home on fumes — physically and emotionally running on empty.  This was the fatigued and depleted state in which I lingered, in a bit of a funk, while absent-mindedly pulling on sneakers to take the dog for a quick afternoon jaunt around the block. 


Fortunately, I caught my error shortly before Everett arrived back home on the school bus.  Disaster (narrowly) averted.  I had barely endured the morning’s “Last Spandex Lunch” experience. I surely would not have survived the disgusted look on Ev’s face had he spied his old man shuffling around the house with two different sneakers on. And this time, George Lucas could not save me. 

Thanks for reading.  

Santa Claus Is (Not) Coming to Town


This longstanding letter-writing tradition will not be repeated in the Beadling Household this year. For the first time in 16 years, there will be no Santa Claus on Beach Street. This sudden, stunning development hardly lacks for explanation.  

To be sure, for example, Everett has stretched — and arguably burst like a popped balloon — the boundaries between “naughty” and “nice.”

Last night, he deployed some trademark foot-dragging on the way to his piano lesson. He emphasized his displeasure with this weekly task, and tamped down any minuscule notion in my head of future rock stardom, by sarcastically promising to pay me $100 should he “ever have a career in the music business.” This is a piece of U.S. Currency he has absolutely zero intention of slapping into my hand. Later, Ev maligned his obligation to participate in that evening’s Midweeklies Holiday Dance, and wore in protest the exact same jacket and tie outfit he has worn for this event for the past two months, like a prison jumpsuit. At the celebratory event’s conclusion, Ev expressed major aggravation, bordering on outrage, that his parents arrived to pick him up at 8:02 pm rather than the appointed hour of 8:00 pm: “See?! This is why I need an iPhone!” 

Just this morning, I attempted to “healthy up” some leftover macaroni and cheese by tossing in a handful of spinach leaves. Surveying the breakfast offering warily without breaking stride, Everett announced, “Nice try, Dad,” and speed-walked right out of the kitchen.  Eventually, he took up his place at the table, spending 15 minutes pushing differently-colored items to and from different corners of his plate.  Though he appeared to be earnestly absorbing our informative lectures about nutrition and “the most important meal of the day,” Everett, we later realized, had wisely run out the clock.  No more time for eating this mushy spinach, you see, since the school bus would be leaving the school bus stop in about two minutes hence.

Everett’s obstinance continued unabated in our garage, as he filled those two minutes by grumpily untying and retying his fairly new sneakers with quintuple knots. Somehow those quintuple knots are directly attributable to something my wife did or did not do.  “Ask mom!” he snapped when I asked why he hadn’t let me simply cut and burn the laces’ ends.  He then came as close as he ever has to breaking my pristine, 12-year streak of bus stop perfection. The bus pulled away from the curb, then came to an abrupt halt, as my little ingrate sprinted toward it with a frown. I managed an apologetic wave to our friend the bus driver, and then tried to convey a disapproving scowl through tinted windows at the general area where my son usually sits.

So yes, this insolent behavior might be off-putting to Santa. 

But Santa’s conspicuous absence this year could also be explained by some arguably rough treatment in the past.  Like the time our dog chewed him to bits. Leaving poor Santa in our backyard, disheveled and fearing for his life —

Screenshot 2017-12-01 08.41.24

Or the time we (allegedly) ran Santa over —


For what it’s worth, this particular traffic mishap cannot be blamed on me.  As my wife will tell you, I haven’t managed to parallel park our Prius (or anybody’s else’s Prius) this close to the curb in years. 

Could it be, then, because we are blithely breaking with tradition, embarking on a family trip to warmer climes this year, rather than staying home and awaiting our hung stockings to be filled? I suspect Santa will forgive our attempt to make some new memories in this, the first Holiday season since my wife’s mom passed away.  Under the circumstances, even Everett sees the merit of sacrificing his usual gaggle of gifts under the Christmas tree for airplane tickets. 

In fact, none of this explains why there’ll be no milk and cookies and carrot sticks left on our fireplace’s mantel this year.

The real reason is that 2017 marks the first Christmas Season in which Everett knows Santa doesn’t exist. I can hardly fathom how we kept the dream alive for as long as we did. But indeed, it is the end of the road for St. Nick in these parts. Rough stuff for our second-born (and for his parents).  And I think he’s having a hard time with it: Letting go of Santa Claus.

The other night at dinner, Everett concocted an elaborate fib about a bright crimson, recently-bloody scratch that had mysteriously appeared on his neck during the school day. Ev claimed he had merely stumbled and fallen in a bush.  Later, under intense questioning from his mother,  he admitted that a friend of his had scratched him in anger, right after Everett had chucked a football at said friend’s head. Also in anger. Ev assured us, however, that he and his friend had ultimately “worked it out.” Nevertheless, given our past experiences with both of our children, we remain conditioned to anxiously await a call or email from school.  The call never came. The email never sent.

Maybe the “Football Scratch Incident” was truly not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, we figured. Then again, maybe Santa had one final gift up his sleeve, even if Everett and his family probably didn’t deserve it.  

Screenshot 2017-12-01 08.41.45

Thanks for reading. And Happy Holidays.