Emotionally, of course, bonding is natural. As soon as that little critter pops out and gets hosed down, even the toughest of dudes immediately falls in love. But in terms of mutually appreciated interests — be it baseball, baking or heavy metal head-bangin’ — the opportunity just isn’t there. By the time the opportunity is there, they’ll be teenagers who instinctively regard their parents with the same eye-rolling indifference as the dirty clothes that litter their bedrooms … only at least dirty clothes can serve a future purpose.
But when they’re still cute and cuddly, the best bonding moment a dad can hope for is finding something that’s mutually entertaining.
While My Lovely Wife is a wonder at finger-painting, coloring, drawing with sidewalk chalk and pretending to be a doctor, chef or princess, I was booted from the Land of Make-Believe around the time they started calling wrestling “sports entertainment.”
When it comes to bonding, Jellybean and I have a few options. Doughnuts are a tremendous social buffer. A lot of heart-warming conversations take place over a cruller. I learn who hit whom at daycare and who her best-friend-of-the-moment is. Meanwhile, I share tales of misplaced puns and metaphors gone awry.
And yet, that’s not necessarily bonding, at least not in that “Little House on the Prairie”-all-we-have-is-each-other-and-these-fishin’-poles-because-electricity-Blackberrys-and-iPods-haven’t-been-invented sorta way. Jellybean and I “bonding” might not inspire Norman Rockwell, but we have a good time trying.
There’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which we both love … only we had to put that on hiatus because Buffy shackin’ up with Spike started to get a tad risqué. The “Glee” sing-alongs are also a hoot. Not only did I learn Jellybean can sing, but it turns out that I like Lady Gaga, especially now that I know she’s not a dude dressed in drag.
The closest thing to traditional bonding came when Jellybean and I worked in the garden. It was perfect since she’s expected to get filthy, plus she can accessorize with pink boots and tiny pink gloves. However, it turns out one can actually make a mess while playing in the dirt. Plus, Jellybean tried to transplant my head from my shoulders to the ground. That’s what I get for giving gardening shears to a child who is still using safety scissors.
So we bond over things we can both enjoy, like going to the mall.
With its air conditioning and Michael Bolton songs wafting softly through the speakers, it’s the perfect place to let Jellybean run wild. She loves riding the train and gets as excited walking up and down stairs as most kids do riding the Mindbender at Six Flags. Toss in a cookie and a Coke Icee and we’ve pretty much done all the bonding we can stand. The only hiccup comes when Daddy forgets where he parked the car.
I knew right where it was … more or less. The problem is the entrances all look the same. Mall security should give out vouchers reminding people where they parked. True, I could’ve paid more attention, but why should those guys be allowed to carry guns and drive around in those Pope Mobiles? Helping absented-minded daddies should also be in their job description.
Two hours later … turned out instead of Dillard’s, I parked by JCPenney. But Jellybean was a trooper, staying with me every step of the way.
The way I see it, bonding is for denture cream. Next time, we’re staying home and just pretending to go to the mall.
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.